Mobile Christian’s Jordan Woullard hauls in a 55-yard pass from Damien Gatson to set up a touchdown in the first quarter against Thomasville Friday night. (Mike Kittrell/Call News)
Mobile Christian’s P.J. Brown scores on a short run against Thomasville in the first quarter Friday night. (Mike Kittrell/Call News)
By JIMMY WIGFIELD
MOBILE — No. 1-ranked Mobile Christian and No. 6 Thomasville had orbited each other all season and circled Friday night as the date of their inevitable collision. But come the time they were finally on the same field, they found those orbits were in vastly different galaxies.
The Leopards continued their early mastery of games by scoring on their first five possessions, led 35-0 at halftime and went on to rout the Tigers 45-14 at Harrison Stadium to win the 3A Region 1 championship.
In completing its first 10-0 regular season since joining the AHSAA in 2006 and only the third perfect regular season in school history, Mobile Christian — which finished 7-0 in the region — used its much more balanced offense and power up front on both sides of the ball to dominate previously undefeated Thomasville, outgaining the Tigers 485 yards to 195.
P.J. Brown ran for 114 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns, Jason Todd added 109 yards on 12 carries and a TD, Damien Gatson was 13-of-24 passing for 208 yards and two touchdowns and the Leopards’ defense — ranked No. 1 in Class 3A against the score — held Thomasville’s wing-T offense 119 yards under its rushing average and 21 points under its scoring average.
“The first half was a precision team effort,” Mobile Christian coach Ronnie Cottrell said. “As we have all year, we did a good job playing well early. I had no idea we’d jump out 35-0 against a team of that caliber.”
But they did and the Leopards proclaimed the playoffs — and their drive to a state championship — underway with the overwhelming win.
“Our goal is to play 15 weeks,” Cottrell said. “They won’t be satisfied unless we go to the state championship game. Our guys were in playoff mode.”
Added center Bo Cagle: “From this point on, we can’t lose. We want to make state and be 15-0.”
The game continued Mobile Christian’s unabated mission into some sort of football statistical nirvana. The Leopards:
Have outscored opponents 172-0 in the first quarter and 307-15 in the first half.
Have scored touchdowns on 23 of 30 first-quarter possessions.
Have never trailed this season.
Set regular-season school records with 424 points and 4,149 total yards.
Failed to force a turnover for only the third time this season and still won by 31 points.
Are 59-5 since 2000 when scoring 40-plus points.
Had not allowed a touchdown run in 34 straight quarters — going back to the season opener — until the Tigers’ DeCorian Cowan scored from a yard out in the third quarter after Dallas Bryant returned the second-half kickoff 79 yards.
Have outscored their opposition 424-56.
Thomasville (7-1, 6-1) had emerged from Clarke County’s piney woods as an undefeated challenger but Mobile Christian took an axe to the Tigers’ defense from the first play and the chunk plays started flying.
In the first half, the Leopards had gains of 12, 12, 13 and 12 yards on their first four runs, a 55-yard pass from Gatson to Jordan Woullard, more runs of 12, 21, 19, 12, 18, 29 and 22 yards and a 50-yard tap pass for a touchdown from Gatson to Michael Moore.
“We played poorly in the first half,” Thomasville coach Clint Anderson said as he hurried off the field. “I tip my hat to them. They’re a really good football team.”
Anderson and Cottrell had a terse exchange after the game due to a controversial play in which Mobile Christian star defensive end Floyd-Dawens Boucard was injured in the third quarter on a block below the knees by Tigers wingback Diego Bryant, who was penalized on the play.
Video replays showed Bryant went in motion before the snap, hurled himself directly at Boucard and undercut him from behind at the knees. The incident has been submitted to the AHSAA for review.
Boucard — the state’s Class 3A sacks leader and good enough to have drawn Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to the school earlier Friday to speak with Cottrell — wore a brace and was on crutches the rest of the game and Cottrell said his status for the rest of the season is uncertain.
Five of the seven-man officiating crew threw flags on the play that felled Boucard. After the game, Anderson told Cottrell: “That’s football.”
“Yeah, right,” Cottrell replied as the teams formed a tense line and shook hands.
Anderson may not have made his point with Cottrell but the Leopards made their points to Thomasville with touchdown drives of 67, 59, 79, 68, 80 and 57 yards and a 36-yard drive for Carter Lewis’ 42-yard field goal after Davon Young blocked a Tigers punt.
“We tried to be perfect,” Gatson said. “We came out strong. Every team we play, we just seem to outnumber their athletes.”
Cagle said Mobile Christian’s offensive line — which averages 280 pounds — again imposed its will.
“I expected us to win but didn’t expect that big of a win,” he said. “God gave us these gifts and we have to use them. We’ve got about 1,000 pounds up front. (Thomasville) did a lot of cutting and we tried to bury them.”
Brown, who now has 1,058 yards rushing this season, scored on runs of 1 yard and 4 yards but found the Tigers’ defense to be tougher in the second half.
“They were getting aggressive with us because we were blowing them out and they had nothing to lose,” Brown said.
Todd scored on a 2-yard run and Woullard added a 7-yard TD run to make it 35-0 at halftime.
The Leopards were so good in the first half — converting 3 of 3 third downs, piling up 17 first downs and running for 233 yards — that Cottrell found almost nothing to correct.
“It was hard to go in at halftime and talk to them because they had played so well,” Cottrell said. “We were a little flat coming out the second half. Thomasville is a good team and they weren’t going to quit.”
Moore caught a 13-yard pass from Gatson early in the fourth quarter to make it 45-7 and Cowan scored from a yard out later in the quarter and finished with 88 yards on 20 carries to reach 1,069 yards rushing this season.
Cowan’s two touchdowns came after the long kickoff return and a fumble recovery at Mobile Christian’s 21, elsewise the Leopards’ defense may have extended its scoreless streak to 18 straight quarters. Cowan’s two scoring runs were the first allowed by Mobile Christian against a region opponent this year.
“Those touchdown runs ticked us off,” said Leopards linebacker Kentonio Kelly, Class 3A’s leading tackler who finished with 12 Friday night. “We knew how good we are and how good we can be. We’re going back to the lab and try to make sure we keep improving. But they were pretty good. We didn’t take them lightly. We just played better.”