For the Coffee Trojans, their round two playoff matchup against the Decatur Bulldogs was a tale of two halves.
While Coffee led Decatur 14-7 at halftime, it was a tenuous lead at best. Head coach Mike Coe lamented his team’s performance as halftime ended. “We didn’t play very well in the first half. We’re better than they are but we’re not playing like it. If we don’t play better, we’re leaving here with an L tonight,” he said.
The Trojans got the message and exploded for 37 points in the third quarter en route to a 51-23 victory and their 10th win of the season. Coffee is in rarified air right now; this is only the Trojans’ 8th 10-win season. Bonwell Royal has three (1976, 1982, and 1982) while Robby Pruitt has four (2014, 2015, 2017, and 2020). Coe is the first Coffee coach to reach the 10-win milestone in his first season.
The win sets up a rematch of sorts with the Cartersville Hurricanes (11-1). In 2020, Coffee and Cartersville faced off in Cartersville in the semifinals. The Hurricanes won that game 24-17 but ended up losing to Warner Robins 62-28 in the state title game.
The Trojans will once again make the long journey north to Cartersville. The Hurricanes punched their ticket to the third round by defeating the Cambridge Bears 37-14 Friday night.
“Our second half effort was really good. We’ve got to get a lot better. If we play like this next week, it’ll be over. We’ve got to get a lot better. We’ve got to clean some things up. Our effort was really good in the second half. I’m proud of how we responded,” said Coach Coe following the game.
Things started off well enough for the Trojans. On the second play of the game, junior cornerback Tyriq Edwards picked off a pass from Decatur quarterback Harrison Hannah. Coffee returned the favor a few minutes later by throwing an interception that stopped what was turning into a very promising drive. The Bulldogs marched downfield but the Coffee defense stiffened and shut down the Bulldogs at the five yard line. Decatur opted for a field goal but the Trojans blocked the attempt.
The Coffee offense took over on the 20 and headed downfield The 80-yard drive ended with a three-yard touchdown run by Fred Brown. With only 1:23 left in the first quarter, the Trojans had a 7-0 lead. A little over five minutes later, Brown scored again, this time from 22 yards out to give Coffee a 14-0 lead. The Bulldogs answered with an 18-yard score to narrow the Trojans’ lead to just seven.
Near the end of the half, things got a little weird. With 2:10 left in the half, Decatur ended up with a 4th and 2 on their own 23. Instead of punting, they opted to go for it. The Trojan defense held and Coffee took over on downs with excellent field position. But the Bulldogs showed they could play defense as well. They pushed Coffee backwards and the Trojans wound up with a 4th and 2 of their own. Coffee got the first down but still couldn’t capitalize. With time winding down in the half, the Trojans threw a second interception, this one in the end zone. That gave Decatur one last play with just two seconds left in the second quarter. Hannah and company couldn’t do anything and Coffee headed into the locker room at halftime leading by seven.
But Coach Coe wasn’t happy. “When teams make poor decisions like that 4th and 2 from their own 23, you’ve got to make them pay. We’ve got to do a better job in those situations,” he said.
When the third quarter began, it didn’t take his team long to give him an answer. It took the Trojans less than a minute to score. After a long kick return to open the half, running back Antwain McDuffie scored on a four-yard run. The Trojans forced the Bulldogs to punt and sophomore return man Tyrese Woodgett make them pay. He took the ball to the three before he stepped out of bounds. McDuffie took it from there and scored his second touchdown of the night. Just three minutes into the third quarter, Coffee had extended its lead to 28-7.
And the Trojans weren’t through.
On their ensuing possession, once again, Decatur turned the ball over on downs after going for it on 4th down deep in their own territory. The Coffee offense ran a couple of plays then Woodgett scampered into the end zone from 11 yards out. With 6:07 left in the third quarter, the Trojans were up 35-7
The Coffee defense added a few points when defensive lineman Jackson Banks grabbed Hannah and threw him down in his own end zone for a safety, giving the Trojans a 37-7 lead with 2:50 remaining in the quarter.
Thirty seconds later, McDuffie scored on a 50 yard run. Then with just eight seconds left in the third quarter, Brown barreled through the line and rumbled in for a 46-yard score.
The Bulldogs scored late in the third quarter and a few minutes into the fourth to bring the score to 51-23. The Trojans did not score in the fourth quarter.
The victory gives Coffee a 10-2 record on the season. Kickoff for the Trojans’ quarterfinal contest against the Hurricanes is set for 7:30 p.m. next Friday.
- Antwain McDuffie and Fred Brown each scored three touchdowns.
- Kicker Jonah Saylor was a perfect 7-7 on extra points.
- The Trojans defeated a #1 seed at home despite losing the turnover battle. Coffee turned the ball over three times (two interceptions and a muffed punt) to Decatur’s one.
- The Trojan defense played fast and physical all night long. The Bulldogs have an explosive offense and are capable of scoring points in bunches. However, they hadn’t seen a defense quite like Coffee’s this year. The Trojans terrorized their backfield and punished their receivers all night.
- The Trojans had the second largest point total and third largest margin of victory in the second round. Creekside defeated Dalton 61-0. Warner Robins defeated Northside (Columbus) 38-7 for a 31-point margin of victory, three points better than Coffee’s 28-point winning margin.
- The two teams did not shake hands after the game. There had been a lot of trash talk going on all game and both teams had been flagged for personal fouls. When the game ended, Coach Coe told his players to head for the locker room. He said he didn’t want to run the risk of another incident like the one earlier this year at Bradwell Institute. Following that game, one of Bradwell’s players hit a Coffee player while they were shaking hands and a small brawl ensued.
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