Cedar Bluff shows resiliency in football victory over Gaylesville

Cedar Bluff’s Hunter Jenkins takes off on the right side of the line on a run against Gaylesville on Friday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

CEDAR BLUFF – Following a region loss at Woodville last Friday, first-year Cedar Bluff head football coach Garrett Crane turned to the Tiger core covenants this past week. He talked with the team about the first covenant of toughness.

“You think of tough being a physical, brute type of thing, but we were talking about the mental side of it, how you’re going to respond,” Crane said.

The response was one of resiliency against Gaylesville.

After spotting the Trojans a 6-point lead, the Tigers settled in with a dominating run game, led by junior tailback Hunter Jenkins. Jenkins tallied 176 yards on 15 carries and scored three touchdowns in leading the Tigers to a 42-12 Class 1A, Region 7 victory.

“I think their response started the first day of practice this week and then all the way through,” Crane said. “We had a phenomenal week of practice and it kind of revealed itself (Friday night). They showed tonight they’re willing to bounce back from anything.”

And bounce back they did.

Gaylesville (0-4, 0-2), which had been held scoreless in its first three games of the season, finally put together its first points of the season on its first drive of the night. The Trojans marched 62 yards in eight plays, capped off by quarterback Kyler Bradley’s 1-yard touchdown sneak. Kuper Bradley’s extra point was no good, keeping the score at 6-0 Trojans with 6:46 remaining in the first quarter.

It remained 6-0 until early in the second quarter. Gaylesville once again was threatening to increase its advantage, but the Tiger defense rose to the occasion on a fourth-down play inside its own 30-yard line.

A Bradley pass was caught, but the Tiger coverage forced the catch out of bounds.

The ball was turned over on downs, and the Tigers (2-2, 1-1) went to work. Five plays later, Alex Baty burst up the field for a 26-yard score. Coupled with Carter Dillingham’s extra point, the Tigers took a 7-6 lead with 7:10 remaining in the first half.

The Tigers tallied two more touchdowns before the half – both on runs by Jenkins from 21 and 10 yards. At halftime, Cedar Bluff led 21-6.

“They punched us in the mouth early, but we bounced back and they couldn’t stop our run game,” Jenkins said. “Our line was just hitting them in the mouth every play. Every time there was a huge hole. All the props to the line. I couldn’t do anything without them.”

“We knew we were going to get their best game, and that’s exactly what happened at the beginning of the game,” Crane said. “It took a while to wake us up, but after that, I think we did a good job of responding. We continued to move it. I’m proud of the effort. Our defense really settled in and did what we were supposed to do. (Jenkins) ran it dang hard, and kudos to our O-line as well. They were creating some holes. We’re really proud of all our backs, but especially of Hunter tonight.”

Gaylesville coach Brian Knapp said his team “managed the first quarter, but then we kind of lost ourselves.”

“We’re still playing a lot of young people,” he said. “We’ve still have a lot of people who don’t have a ton of football IQ. That’s the reality. We’ve just got to keep moving forward and try to learn.”

Cedar Bluff used a bit of trickery to open the third quarter. Hunter Stallings recovered an onside kick in Gaylesville territory. Three plays later, Jenkins scored again on a 28-yard run. Dillingham’s point after provided the Tigers a 28-6 advantage.

But the Tigers weren’t done. They tried another onside kick, which was recovered by Hayden Tucker. This time, however, Gaylesville’s defense turned the ball back over downs. After three quarters, Cedar Bluff was still out in front by 22 points.

The Tigers put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter on an 18-yard touchdown run by Carson Webb and a 12-yard score by Baty.

Gaylesville did manage to put together another scoring drive late in the game when Kuper Bradley connected with Kyler Bradley on a 51-yard scoring strike, but it was too little too late.

Baty accumulated 97 yards on nine carries with two scores. Webb finished with 46 yards on five carries and a touchdown – all in the second half. Kaden Pack completed 5-of-8 passes for 69 yards.

Kyler Bradley led the Trojans with 80 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. He also completed three passes for 48 yards. Kuper Bradley was 2-of-3 passing for 61 yards and a touchdown.

After playing just its first game of the season at L.D. Bruce Field, Cedar Bluff hits the road again when it travels to Decatur Heritage on Friday. Gaylesville hosts Appalachian.

NOTE: Prior to Friday night’s game, Cedar Bluff honored its boys and girls Final Four basketball teams.

As part of the ceremony, the Tigers announced a resolution which was passed by the Cherokee County Commission, that named the basketball court in honor of former coach Joe Carpenter.

Carpenter spent 37 years as an educator and coach at White Plains (1983-84), Ragland (1984-92), and Cedar Bluff (1993-present).

At Cedar Bluff, Carpenter coached the Lady Tiger track and field teams to seven Class 1A state titles (2000, 2007-12). He also guided the Tiger boys basketball team to state Final Four appearances in 2011 and 2012, and the Lady Tigers to the Final Four in 2013. He’s won a combined 730 basketball games in his coaching career with 23 winning seasons.

He retired in March of 2021, but is currently teaching at Cherokee County High School during a teacher’s maternity leave.

Carpenter was humbled by the resolution but takes little credit for the success the school had during his coaching tenure.

“I couldn’t do it without any of these kids and the school,” he said. “This school is a special place. There’s special people who have been here, kids and coaches. I couldn’t do it without Coach (Johnny) Amison, Coach (Barry) Rice, Coach (Jonathan) McWhorter and Coach (Torey) McDaniel. Everybody has contributed in some way, whether it was the bus driver to the lunchroom ladies to the janitors. It’s everybody.”

Crane said Carpenter’s honor is well deserved.

“Coach Carpenter has been a huge influence in my life,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to have him as a basketball coach and a teacher. The same thing with Coach Amison when he came in here. One of the reasons I love what I do is because of them. I’m happy we honored him in front of our community. It’s really special to be able to do that with him.

“We’re thankful for Coach Carpenter and the many blessings he has given us and the impact he still has in our community.”

Cedar Bluff School principal Torey McDaniel, right, presents a framed resolution to former basketball coach Joe Carpenter following the announcement of the school’s basketball court being named in his honor during a ceremony recognizing Cedar Bluff’s past Final Four teams. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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