Before a large, boisterous homecoming crowd Friday night, Decatur High scored 41 unanswered first- quarter points before slipping into cruise control and routing Towers 55-20.
Meantime the Bulldogs’ state playoff hopes, virtually extinguished two weeks ago, were rekindled with Woodward’s 20-14 victory over St. Pius X on Friday.
Therefore, a Decatur win over 3-5 McNair next week, combined with a Pius (now 6-2) loss to Blessed Trinity (7-1), also next Friday, would make the Nov. 9 Decatur-St. Pius X game at the Decatur High Stadium a battle for Region 6-AAA’s fourth playoff berth.
“I can truly say we’ve gotten better with every game,” said Decatur Coach Brad Waggoner, whose team evened its record at 4-4 after snapping a three-game losing streak. “This past week was the most focused week of practice we’ve had all year. I mean, there was no doubt in my mind we were gonna play well tonight.”
It’s true that Towers, now 0-9, came into this one yielding 46.25 points per game, and on Friday dressed only 22 players. Nevertheless the Bulldogs’ explosive opening quarter was a sight to behold, and probably something that’s never been seen in the 95-year history of this program.
On the game’s opening kickoff Perez Cowan bristled 90 yards for touchdown, which later caused him to throw up his hands and say, “Finally.”
He'd nearly broken free twice before this season. He had a 63-yard kickoff return against Grady but was stopped on the 18, and he had a sizzling 84-yarder against Woodward, where he was hit hard twice before breaking free, only to be dropped from behind at the eight.
But on this night Perez’s fireworks were only the beginning. In fact Decatur, in its five first-quarter possessions, never ran a second down play. The Bulldogs would score touchdowns on a 46-yard run by senior tailback Andrew Brown, followed by a 16-yard jaunt from Brown, who finished with his second consecutive 100-yard game (102 yards on six carries).
Later in the quarter Terryon Robinson took a pitch from sophomore quarterback Joseph Comer and raced 21 yards for a touchdown. Terez Cowan, the identical twin to Perez, caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Comer and then Robinson had another long run, this one for 68 yards to close out the quarter.
Terryon finished with a career-high 148 yards rushing on only four carries.
“Yes, Tower’s had a rough season,” Waggoner said, “and they’ve been blown out several times. But we still did an outstanding job of executing, especially our offensive line which has become the biggest surprise of the season. They have really progressed and have become the cornerstone of the team.”
Waggoner, however, in his ninth season as a head coach and his first at Decatur, may have been more impressed by the hometown crowd.
“This,” he said, “was about the neatest homecoming atmosphere I’ve ever been around.”
There were literally dozens of past Decatur High classes represented in the packed home stands, dating back at least to Paul Sharian, of Sharian rugs fame, who graduated in 1944.
In a light dinner and get-together before the game, the school also honored athletes from the 23 state championship teams, beginning with the 1948 baseball champions through the 2011 girls track squad. Meanwhile in the Culinary Arts Center nearly 70 athletes from Decatur’s 12 softball seasons had their first-ever reunion.
As for the main attraction, it was essentially over after the first quarter. In the second half the clock ran without stopping while Waggoner played mostly his junior varsity team.
Decatur now plays McNair next Friday at 5:15 p.m. at Panthersville Stadium. McNair has scored only 13 points in its last four games losing to, in order, St. Pius X, Cedar Grove, Woodward and Blessed Trinity.
But Waggoner, like any football coach worth his salt, is still worried sick.
“McNair is big up front and they can wear you down,” he said. “If we slip up next week that Pius game won’t mean a thing. I also hate the early start. You get out of your routine, you don’t get your pre-game meal -- you just get off the bus and play.”
Waggoner, however, shouldn’t have much trouble motivating his young squad, not with a playoff spot and a winning record on the line. Decatur hasn’t made the state playoffs since 2005, and has had only one winning season in the past six.