As was the case in both 2009 and 2010, Tattnall Square exacted revenge against Westfield when the GISA playoffs came around. The Trojans scored a 24-6 home victory Friday to return to the Class AAA state title game and a showdown with Stratford.
The Trojans (10-2) relied on their defense throughout the game, holding the Hornets (9-3) to just 113 yards of offense. After allowing the Hornets to drive 42 yards on the game’s opening series, the Trojans allowed only 21 yards on the following 12 drives. Westfield put together its only other drive of substance after the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“We just kept putting our defense in holes, and they kept getting us out it and kept those guys out of the end zone,” Tattnall head coach Barney Hester said
The normally ball-control Trojans offense employed a different tactic Friday, using a trio of big plays to set up three of its four scores. On the Trojans’ first offensive play after turning Westfield over on downs, fullback Andrew Layson broke through a pair of would-be tacklers near the line of scrimmage, then burst to the sideline and raced 70 yards for the game’s first score.
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Tattnall’s offense mustered just a single first down on its next four possessions and allowed Westfield back into the game due to some shaky special teams play. On consecutive punt attempts, punter Will Bagwell had to scramble away from rushers after high snaps and could not even get off a kick in either instance. After the second such mistake, the Hornets needed to travel only 10 yards to cut the margin to 7-6.
Bagwell’s day turned for the better on the Trojans’ next drive. He beat the Hornets’ Tom Tuggle in man coverage to haul in a looping pass from John Rader. After escaping from Tuggle, Bagwell ran into the end zone, capping a 49-yard catch and run that re-established the Trojans’ touchdown advantage.
A third-quarter field goal pushed the Tattnall lead to 11 before the Trojans secured the victory with a seven-play, 31-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter that featured a fourth-down conversion and concluded with Taylor Morgan scoring on a tackle-eligible pass from Rader from 9 yards out.
“We‘ve ran it in practice five or six times, and I‘ve caught it two or three,” Morgan said. “Whenever I’ve gotten a good throw and the linebackers aren’t in the way, I would catch it. I was (able to keep calm when they called the play), I just wanted to execute it.”
Tattnall forced three turnovers -- two interceptions and a fumble -- and held the Hornets’ Evan Williams to just 3-of-14 passing. Westfield gained just 52 yards on the ground.
The Trojans will eye a 12th GISA state crown against in-town rival Stratford. When the two squads met last month, the Trojans earned a 27-7 home victory. Rader ran for 102 of the team’s 300 rushing yards in that game and Tattnall’s defense held Austin Simmons and Ken Spears to a combined 79 yards.
“It’s great having two teams from Macon playing for a state title,” Hester said. “Stratford is a great program, and we have a lot of respect for those guys, and we are just happy to be there.”