By Bill Banks
Maybe it was natural Decatur High’s football team would backslide a little after an emotional, come-from-behind one-point win over Greenville, and also with the Region 6-AAA opener around the corner.
After a sluggish offensive effort, the Bulldogs poured it on late to beat Clarkston 27-7 Friday night, running their record to 3-1.
From the beginning there were ominous overtones. When Decatur’s bus arrived at Hallford Stadium Friday afternoon the entire facility was locked. The Bulldogs didn’t get on the field until about half an hour before kickoff, though coach Brad Waggoner likes a full one hour and 15 minutes to warm up.
It took nearly three-quarters of the game for Decatur to thaw out.
Decatur led only 14-7 until quarterback Devontae Carter’s four-yard touchdown run gave his team a whiff of breathing room with 1:30 left in the third quarter.
“I was worried the kids weren’t focused on Clarkston,” Waggoner said. “We came out flat, we made a bunch of mistakes on offense, and we had two touchdowns called back [on penalties] in the same drive, and the bottom line is we almost didn’t survive.”
They did because the Bulldogs continue playing their best overall football in the fourth quarter, when they post nearly half of their total points while outscoring opponents 48-13. Decatur also played, in Waggoner’s words, “our best defense of the season.”
It held Clarkston to 34 yards total offense on 34 plays, 49 passing and minus 15 rushing. Perhaps the most significant statistic in this one is that Decatur held the ball for eight more minutes and 20 more plays, allowing the defense plenty of rest between its spirited, bone-crunching work.
Rapidly-improving junior lineman Kyle Kitchens led Decatur with six tackles and one assist, while outside linebacker Vito Antinozzi added five tackles.
“No doubt I’m a defense-first guy,” Waggoner said. “If we’re going to get this program competing again, if we’re are going to get to playoffs, and go deep into the playoffs, the defense has to be consistent week to week.”
Though not as sharp as he’s been in past games, Carter still completed 13 of 21 passes for 163 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. All three of those touchdowns belonged to Terez Cowan, including a 55-yard reception in the first quarter. Totaled, Terez caught four passes for 86 yards.
With highly-recruited senior Terryon Robinson still on the mend after a high ankle sprain (he only played briefly Friday), identical twins Perez and Terez, in that order, remain the team’s two leading receivers.
“Frankly, I don’t know how opponents tell them apart because I’m still having trouble myself,” Waggoner said. “I do know that Terez is slightly taller.”
Decatur opens its regional schedule next Saturday against Cedar Grove, with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Panthersville Stadium. The Saints feature one of the state’s best quarterbacks in 6-foot-4, 200-pound Johnathon McCrary, who’s verbally committed to Vanderbilt. He’s a member of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Super 11.
McCrary passed for 2,643 yards and 27 touchdowns last year and could threaten the state record for career passing yardage. He led Cedar Grove to a 7-4 record in 2011, giving the school back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1999.