“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That statement, while grammatically incorrect, essentially sums up the Commerce philosophy on its run-heavy offense as the Tigers head into another big rivalry game this Friday.
The Tiger offense racked-up a whopping 398 yards of total offense last Friday night and defeated longtime rival Jefferson, ending a five-year losing streak — all without putting the ball in the air a single time.
Commerce fullback Jamal Browner and halfback Terrick Ramsey each rushed for over a hundred yards, overpowering a Jefferson defense in a 22-7 victory.
Drew Whitfield, Quay Little and Jamir Walton also added large chunks of yardage to the stat board, resulting in a Tiger triple option attack that the Dragons couldn’t stop.
“I was really proud of our kids,” said head coach Marvin Justice. “They played hard for 48 minutes and didn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
Commerce opened up the game with an 80-play drive ending with a Browner touchdown. After forcing a Jefferson punt, Commerce took the ball down inside the red zone once again, but lost momentum after two penalties and a fumble. Jefferson scored on the ensuing drive, leaving the score at 7-7 at the end of the first half.
After emerging from the locker room, the Tiger defense took the field and once again forced a Jefferson punt. Commerce struck quickly with Terrick Ramsey going 81-yards for another Tiger touchdown.
Jefferson answered with a drive down to the Tiger 10-yard line, but after a dropped halfback pass in the end zone, Commerce took control of the game.
The Tigers once again drove down the field, eating up a large portion of the clock and finished with another score by Browner.
“The second quarter just didn’t go our way, but I was really pleased how our kids handled that adversity,” said Justice. “We went into the half at 7-7, came out and played well and took control of the game. A lot of teams may have folded under pressure but they didn’t.”
The Tiger defense held Jefferson quarterback Bryant Shirreffs to only 131 yards in the air and came up with one interception by Brevin Knox.
Commerce players and coaches alike were ecstatic after finally breaking Jefferson’s five-year winning streak in this storied rivalry.
“I’ve been wanting this for a long time and I know the rest of the team has too,” said senior Tiger Micah Eason. “It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
Quarterback Drew Whitfield praised his teammates on their victory.
“I cannot do anything without the rest of the team, especially my offensive line,” said Whitfield. “We grew up playing together. We are a family and I love them.”
The win proved to be a bittersweet victory for the Commerce community. Many of the team members and coaches dedicated the victory to coach Chip McClure, who passed away due to complications from double pneumonia the following day. McClure’s son Chance led the Tiger defense with 13 tackles Friday night. McClure’s daughter Sydney also is a student athlete at Commerce High School.
Commerce (1-0) now turns its attention to across-town rivals East Jackson (0-1).
Although EJCHS lost its game to Banks County 46-30, the Eagles put up some impressive numbers including quarterback Austin Beauchamp’s 276 yards through the air and 120 yards on the ground.
The meeting between the two schools will be the first, but coach Justice feels that his team will be fired up for another rivalry.
“With them being three miles away, hopefully motivation is not an issue, said Justice. “It’s a natural rivalry and the first time we’ve ever played, so I’m sure they (the team) won’t need much motivation.”
Justice feels that the Eagle pass-oriented offense draws many parallels with Jefferson’s and is not looking to make too many adjustments to his game plan.
“We aren’t going to change anything up too much, said Justice. “East Jackson is a spread team like Jefferson. We probably won’t have to make too many adjustments because they are a similar team. They are a 4-wideout and quarterback oriented offense, so we are going to do a lot of the same things we did last week.”
Justice feels confidant his rushing attack to be firing on all cylinders and looks to once again spread the ball around to keep opponents guessing.
“We really missed Jamal (Browner) last year, he said. “We are doing things on offense that can really open him up. We also take advantage of our other runningbacks. We spread the wealth and have kids that can pose a threat in different areas. We want to make people on defense have to play the whole field.”
The Tigers will be missing a day of practice this week to pay respect to the McClure family.
“It’s going to be a little bit of a challenge this week with a limited amount of practice, but his passing is a lot more important than a football game, said Justice. We are going to do the best we can with the practice time we do have.”
The Tigers will travel to EJCHS for the 7:30 kickoff in what will likely be a home-game atmosphere for both teams.
After last Friday’s victory, halfback Terrick Ramsey had only one brief comment concerning the game against the Eagles.