GERALDINE — Junior running backs Anthony Baldwin and Troy Willoughby combined for 260 rushing yards and five touchdowns to lift Geraldine past Clements 49-16 in the first round of the AHSAA Class 3A state playoffs Friday.
Willoughby led the Bulldogs with 141 yards and two touchdowns on six carries. Baldwin tallied 119 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries, with an interception on defense.
Geraldine head coach Brad Waldrop wasn’t pleased with how the defense started the game, but he was thrilled with how the team was able to finish in dominating fashion.
“Anytime you get a win in the playoffs it’s a big win,” Waldrop said. “We had a plan coming in, and I felt like the guys done a pretty good job of executing. We were a little rocky in the first half — for some reason, defensively, we couldn’t get adjusted right — but I think we got it squared away in the second half and did a better job.”
While the stout running game propelled Geraldine to a decisive win, the Bulldogs opened game with 30-yard touchdown pass from DJ Graham to Kyle Thackerson to take 6-0 lead with 7:23 remaining in the first quarter. The PAT kick by Jose Garcia was no good.
One ensuing possession, Jairrice Pryor reached the end zone on a 23-yard carry to give Clements an 8-6 lead with 3:07 remaining in the first quarter. De’Andre Stone carried the football for the 2-point conversion.
On Geraldine’s next possession, Baldwin ran for a 12-yard touchdown to regain the lead at 14-8 with 11:54 remaining in the second quarter. Baldwin carried the football for the 2-point conversion.
With 3:13 remaining in the first half, Baldwin score his second touchdown of the night on a 10-yard run to increase the Bulldogs’ lead 22-8. Graham completed a pass to Chase Kermondy to convert to 2-point try.
Coming out of the halftime break, Baldwin muscled his way to the end zone for his third and final score of the game. With 9:17 remaining in the third quarter, Baldwin’s 8-yard touchdown run capped off an eight-play, 57-yard drive to widen the lead to 29-8. The PAT kick by Garcia was successful.
After forcing Clements to turn the ball over on downs, Geraldine’s Willoughby scorched the defense for a 62-yard touchdown run to push the lead out to 36-8 with less than 6 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Garcia’s PAT kick was good.
At the start of the fourth quarter, with 11:03 remaining in regulation, Clements was able to trim the Bulldogs’ lead back down to 36-16 with the help of Pryor. He scored his second rushing touchdown of the night from 5 yards away. Stone carried the football for the 2-point conversion.
Four plays later, Willoughby ripped off another huge run — 68 yards — to put Geraldine up 42-16 with 8:37 remaining in the game. The PAT by Garcia was no good.
On Clements’ ensuing possession, Baldwin intercepted a pass from Clements quarterback Braden Tucker at the Clements 15-yard line with 8:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. Nine seconds later, Graham connected with Jackson Bearden for a 15-yard touchdown pass for the final score of 49-16.
For Geraldine, Graham completed 3 of 3 passes for 56 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried the football three times for 17 yards.
With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 7-4 on the season. Geraldine travels to B.B. Comer (6-5) for the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs Friday.