New School, Same Sawyer
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The Wildcats of Tuscaloosa County High School (2-0) officially doubled their win total from 2021 with a 28-7 road win over the Bessemer City Purple Tigers (0-2) on Friday night.
It could be fair to say second-year County High coach Adam Winegarden scheduled Bessemer City High School in hopes of boosting his young team's confidence, given that the Purple Tigers haven't won a game since October of 2020.
However, Bessemer City came out firing, even scoring the game's first points with a 22-yard rushing score from junior quarterback Christopher Whittsett Jr. on the opening drive to set the tone.
Tuscaloosa County nearly got the chance to respond with its first offensive play, but a holding call against the Wildcats brought back what would've been a 75-yard scoring answer to senior receiver Dre Brown.
All was not lost for the opening series, though, as the Wildcats finished out the 9-play drive in just under four minutes with Sawyer Deerman's first passing touchdown of the night going to junior TCHS receiver Kevin Riley.
A scoreless second quarter left the early-season matchup tied at halftime, but the Wildcats team that came out for the second half looked much more ready and refined than the team that started the game.
TCHS's first three drives out of the halftime locker room all ended in touchdowns, two of those scores stemming from former ACA quarterback Sawyer Deerman.
A seven-play Wildcats drive studded with runs from junior back Kevin Riley ultimately opened the third quarter, leading to a 14-yard ground touchdown from senior rusher Kameron Hall.
At this point, considering the first-half fight shown by Bessemer City, the game didn't really belong to anyone yet. That is, right up until the point where Sawyer Deerman toted the ball on a 90-yard rushing score in the next drive, all but sealing the game's momentum in favor of the visitors.
Deerman's second passing touchdown, the final nail for the Purple Tigers, was a 17-yard strike on-the-run to senior receiver Coleman Cooper in the back of the end zone, bringing the score to 28-7 with over 10 minutes to play in regulation.
Coach Winegarden was pleased with the performances from both young teams post-game.
"You've got to give a 'hats off' to Bessemer City. Those kids competed really, really hard. Very tough kids over there," Winegarden said. "Every environment's a little different, especially on the road... I thought our fans really showed up to support our team and I'm very thankful."
Despite not having much going for the Bessemer City offense in the second half, Purple Tigers' second-year head coach Antonio Nelson left in his junior starting quarterback, Christopher Whittsett Jr., who had already recorded over 25 rushing plays in the game.
"Right now we're competing our tails off, we're just trying to figure things out, figuring out how to win," Nelson said post-game. "No thoughts about keeping him in, we're just running our same offense, you know, it's pretty much what it is."
The Purple Tigers' next game will be on the road against McAdory as Nelson looks for his first win since taking over the program in 2021.
Next week, Tuscaloosa's County High Wildcats will play another winnable road game, this time against Chelsea (0-2), in hopes of securing the team's best season start since 2014.
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