TUSCUMBIA — Deshler players had some pep on the sideline in the second half, and not only because they were well on their way to a third straight win in what began as a downer of a season.
The Tigers enjoyed somewhat of a depth advantage against a small and injury-stricken Colbert County roster Friday night. Deshler capitalized on that using a hurry-up offense and some ball-hawking defense to wear down Colbert County in a 54-28 Tigers win that didn’t really seem that close.
The Indians had six of their first nine drives end in turnovers, resulting in 24 Deshler points, as the Tigers (4-3, 3-2 Class 3A Region 8) staked a 40-7 third-quarter lead.
“The very first series we knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage, and that kind of set the tone right there,” Deshler safety Tucker Norwood said. “The line did a good job of getting their hands up and making them throw high, and we were just in position to make plays.
“We thought we could have an advantage with our depth, too. A lot of their guys play both ways and you could notice them starting to get tired after a while. We kind of made them one-dimensional, and the offense did a great job pounding it down the field and wore them out. We had a good game plan.”
Colbert County (5-2, 3-2) had seven turnovers in all — two interceptions and five fumbles — making it a total of 12 in its last two games, both losses.
The only thing that went the Indians’ way early was a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Tobias Qualls to give them a 7-3 lead with 4:16 left in the first quarter.
Then the turnovers started.
Playing for the first game this season after a stress fracture, Norwood intercepted a Samuel Howard pass at the Tigers’ 37. That one resulted in a Deshler fumble, not points.
But Colbert County’s Ryan Carpenter fumbled it right back at his own 9-yard line, and Terrance Byrd turned it into a 1-yard touchdown run and a 16-7 lead. Zach Garner then intercepted Howard on the next play from scrimmage and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown.
“I was just running cover-three, dropped back and saw the ball hanging in the air,” Garner said. “I just followed my blockers after that.”
After an Indians’ turnover on downs at the Deshler 29, Taj Bates capped a 70-yard, nine-play drive with a 19-yard touchdown run.
Two plays later, Garner recovered a Colbert County fumble that set up Rhett Harrison’s 24-yard field goal at the halftime buzzer for a 33-7 Deshler lead.
“I think our depth really showed,” Deshler coach John Mothershed said. “That was our whole game plan. We knew with all the guys they have playing both ways, we could kind of wear them down with the hurry-up (offense).”
Byrd rushed for a team-high 72 yards with touchdown runs of 60 and 1 yards on 10 carries.
Harrison went 2-for-2 on field goals, also making a 31-yarder.
Justin Cantrell hooked up with Juakeem Fuqua for a 22-yard touchdown pass and Deshler’s Blake Rivera added an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter. Tyreck Ricks broke free for a 51-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run to round out Deshler’s scoring.
“We got awful tired, and we’re banged up right now,” said Colbert County coach Dale Jeffreys, who was missing two starters on the line and had another miss practice all week with the flu. “Depth was probably the biggest thing for them. We matched them defense-for-defense for a little while, but once we got tired, it was all downhill from there.”
Colbert County lost fumbles on two of its first three plays of the second half and didn’t score an offensive touchdown until Qualls’ 24-yard touchdown run on a reverse to make it 47-14 with 43.7 seconds left in the third quarter.
Qualls finished with 139 total yards and two touchdowns.
The Indians added fourth-quarter scores on Ryan Carpenter’s 5-yard touchdown run and a 23-yard pass from back-up quarterback Tyler Jeffreys to Kearvae Qualls.
“Winning three in a row is huge for us,” Garner said. “It started with the Brooks win and we’ve kept it going. After starting 1-3, there were some heads hanging, but not anymore.”
Bryan App can be reached at 256-740-5730 or email@example.com. Follow @bappster on Twitter.