By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
GAYLESVILLE – No one can accuse the Gaylesville Trojans of not playing a tough schedule thus far in the 2023 high school football season.
They opened against a pair of Class 2A playoff teams from a year ago in West End and Collinsville. Then on Thursday night, they welcomed Class 1A state semifinalist and Region 7 rival Coosa Christian to Roy Knapp Field.
Just like their first two games, the Trojans struggled to get much of anything going. They were held scoreless for the third straight week as Coosa Christian claimed a 49-0 victory.
“We call it the SEC West schedule so far,” Gaylesville head coach Brian Knapp said. “We’ve taken some lumps and bumps. It’s been difficult, but we’re still in one piece.
“A lot of times, we play six freshmen at one time. You’re going to make a lot of mental errors. The one thing we did better tonight was in the first two games we turned the ball over quite a bit. We got better at that. They (Coosa) were so good up front that we had to throw the ball more than I like to. We have gotten a little better each time out. I know the score is not indicative of that, but we really have. There’s a lot of growing pains we’re going through because we’re so young.”
The Conquerors (2-1, 1-0) have also played a tough schedule to this point. They opened at Class 3A Geraldine, then traveled to fellow 1A Spring Garden last week in a rematch of last year’s second round playoff battle.
“We had several kids who didn’t dress tonight because we’re so beat up with that gauntlet of a schedule we’ve ran,” Coosa coach Mark O’Bryant said. “I was really proud. That was my fourth team running back (Joseph East) that we started tonight. I thought the kids who had an opportunity stepped up. We didn’t execute real well, but I think we played well. We’ve still got a lot to work on though.”
As O’Bryant said, East made the most of his opportunity. The sophomore led the Conquerors with 182 yards on just nine carries and scored three touchdowns. Clete O’Bryant added 102 yards on five carries with a score.
Quarterback John David Justus completed 6 of 14 pass attempts for 149 yards and a touchdown. Eli Motes was his top receiver, catching four passes for 53 yards and a touchdown.
As Knapp alluded, Coosa had its biggest advantage in the trenches, which made running the ball extremely difficult for the Trojans (0-3).
Junior Braden Barrett led the Trojan ground game with just 11 yards on six carries. Senior quarterback Kyler Bradley completed just one pass for 38 yards to his younger brother, sophomore Cooper Bradley.
That was about the extent of the Trojan offense.
On the flip side, the Conquerors scored touchdowns on six of their nine first half possessions to take a 43-0 halftime lead. The second half was a running clock, with the only score by Sika on a 68-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, Dylan Edwards and Kylen Johnson had an interception apiece, and Grayson Malone recovered a Trojan fumble on a kickoff – all in the first half.
Gaylesville freshman Ayden Heinreich recovered a Coosa fumble on a punt in the first quarter.
Coosa Christian returns home to face Decatur Heritage next Friday. Gaylesville is at Cedar Bluff.
“I told the guys it’s time to get ready and go,” Knapp said. “In my opinion, our season starts now. We’ve got through the gauntlet. We always play them hard, so let’s go and make it interesting and see what we can do.”