Exciting moments not enough for Indians versus Rebels

  • Running back Drew Allison returned from an injury with a vengeance Friday night, stiff arming a Fannin County defender on his way to a first down. (Photo by Jake Cantrell/The Nugget)
    Running back Drew Allison returned from an injury with a vengeance Friday night, stiff arming a Fannin County defender on his way to a first down. (Photo by Jake Cantrell/The Nugget)
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After successfully driving the ball all the way down to the Fannin County seven-yard line with a 13 play, 51-yard drive where the Indians controlled the ball and the game for nearly five minutes, it was fourth and goal and it appeared the Indians’ drive had stalled.
Head coach Caleb Sorrells was forced to burn a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty before the fourth down play. After the timeout he sent his team back on to the field before calling a second consecutive timeout. A desperate move, it seemed as though the Indians were overwhelmed and confused.
However, confused would best describe how the Fannin County defense felt when Lumpkin County center Ricky Hicks snapped the ball while quarterback Tucker Kirk was at the right side of the line calling for an audible. Sorrells was not confused or overwhelmed, but simply reaching deep into the sleeve of his black Lumpkin sweatshirt for the trick play he was pulling out. What happened next could only be regarded as “special.”
“We called it Philly Special, just like Philadelphia does, it’s the exact same thing,” Sorrells said, referring to his team’s trick play, inspired by the play used in the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl LII victory over the New England Patriots in 2018.
That’s when running back Bojack Dowdy caught the direct snap and took the ball to the left side of the field, pitched it to wide receiver Trey Wilkes, who was reversing from the right side of the field back to the middle, who then threw the ball to the right corner of the end zone where stood a wide open Kirk. With the entire Fannin County defense chasing after what seemed to be an errant snap, Kirk was able to release untouched into the end zone and be on the receiving end of a passing touchdown instead of his normal role of throwing the touchdowns.
“Two or three weeks ago we started saying ‘Let’s try to put in a trick play, let’s try to do something, throw some wrinkles in,’ because it adds excitement for our kids and because we just kind of needed something,” Sorrells said. “We had several guys get hurt and we’re losing some weapons and so we put it in and didn’t ever run it. You put that in for that [situation], inside the 10 (yard line), quarterback slips out, it was the perfect situation. We got in the huddle and [coach Burkhart] said ‘You want to run it?’ I said, “Let’s do it,” so he did a good job of recognizing that situation.”
The score would cut Fannin’s lead in half at 14-7 with just under two minutes left in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Indians, that was as close as they got to taking the lead as Fannin answered with a touchdown drive of its own before adding a fourth score with a minute to go in the first half. The Indians added a second touchdown in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late as the Rebels went on to win by a score of 35-14.
The Indians went into Fannin County banged up, missing several key contributors including tight end and defensive end Aaron Hopkins. While no team is 100 percent healthy this late in the season, having a fully armed squad would’ve definitely helped against the dominant front line the Rebels trotted out.
“They’re really big and strong up front and we had a little bit of a hard time with it,” Sorrells said.
Lumpkin did have two big contributors, running back Drew Allison and tight end Ryan Burkhart  return from injury, helping the Indians to be a little less outmatched in strength and size.
“We got Ryan back and we got Drew Allison back and those two bigger bodies helped,” Sorrells said. “They both play with a little bit of nastiness, especially tonight, a good nastiness, so that was good to have them back.”
As Bojack Dowdy, Lumpkin’s leading rusher for the season, struggled to find a hole to run through, the Indians turned to Allison, relying heavily on him in the second half. The Indians’ most impressive drive of the game featured Allison carrying the ball for nearly half of the 79 yards they needed to score. Lumpkin started at its own 21 yard line before pushing the ball down the field in nine plays and never reaching a third down. The Indians finished the drive with a 14-yard pass from Kirk, finding Wilkes on the left side of the endzone for the touchdown, bringing the score to 35-14.
While Fannin’s duo of running back Treylyn Owensby and quarterback Luke Holloway were nearly unstoppable in the first half, the Indians were able to hold the Rebels scoreless through the final eight minutes of the game, despite their aggressive attempts to add to their already insurmountable lead. Lumpkin’s defense stood tall in the Rebels’ final possession, stopping Fannin just 12 yards from the endzone, including a couple of timely deflected passes on third and fourth down, to give the Lumpkin offense another shot. The Indians iced the rest of the game away with a steady drive by backup quarterback Cooper Scott, who took the ball from the shadow of their own goalposts out to midfield before running out of time.
While the loss gives Lumpkin a 1-8 record heading into the final week of the season, Sorrells feels he is seeing progress by his Indians.
“I definitely think we’ve seen progress,” he said. “The amount of kids we’ve lost, week by week by week by week...has made it very difficult to stay consistent in your personnel, to stay consistent in your scheme. We’ve had to change stuff up on both sides of the ball. We did something completely different on defense tonight. And so we’ve seen progress, yes, but not progress in the way we were hoping. I was hoping to advance in our scheme and get better and we have in some ways, but haven’t gotten the chance to do that because it’s like a revolving door of personnel every week.”
While the woes of a tough season can often cause roster numbers to dwindle, Sorrells feels confident that the players that have managed to stick it out will finish the season strong.
“The ones that are still here, I’m dang proud of,” he said.
Lumpkin looks to close the season out on a high note Friday at East Hall. The Vikings are also 1-8 on the season and licking their wounds after a 44-6 schelacking at the hands of North Hall. Both Lumpkin and East Hall will be seeking their first region win of the season.