In Friday’s 30-0 loss to B.B. Comer, it wasn’t the typical running performance that we have come to know from the RCHS offense.
That’s because it wasn’t the typical players running that offense.
Playing without its top two rushers and two of its starting offensive linemen, the Tigers mustered just 70 rushing yards as a team.
The absences were due to players either being injured or in the covid quarantine protocol, and came at the worst possible time. The game against Comer was a pivotal region contest in which the winner would finish second in the region and get a home-field playoff game in the first round. Comer landed that coveted spot with the win, while RCHS fell to third place and will travel to Clarke County for its first-round playoff game. But with its current roster limitations the preparation for that Nov. 6 game could prove to be dicey.
RCHS took just 18 players on the trip for Friday’s game at Comer.
“I think we had seven on the sideline, so that’s 18 players that we had dressed out,” said RCHS head coach Pat Prestridge. “And most of them were kids that were just 10th-graders that have never played.”
Comer and RCHS entered the game with identical 7-1 records, with both teams’ only loss coming against region champion Lanett. So on paper it set up to be an evenly matched, high stakes contest.
But RCHS, which came into the game averaging 385 rushing yards per game, couldn’t come anywhere near that type of production with its depleted roster.
But for Prestridge, taking a shorthanded team and giving it a go against long odds was preferable to forfeiting the game and not at least giving his team a chance at an admittedly improbable victory.
“We talked about [a forfeit], but I think our kids wanted to compete,” Prestridge said. “We’re Randolph County. We’re not going to forfeit just because. If we had nine or 10 or 11, or didn’t have enough linemen, we wouldn’t have gone. We had six linemen. So we took six linemen, and the rest of them were skill players. If you forfeit you don’t give yourself a chance to win, especially when you’re playing for number two in the region.”
RCHS played the game without leading rushers J.D. Till (1,480 yards, 15 TDs) and Johnathan Wilson (444 yards, 7 TDs) and did not get a carry from No. 4 runner Hagan Bailey while he nursed an ankle injury.
That left the running duties to a group of backups that were thrust into starting roles behind a patchwork offensive line that wasn’t nearly as effective as the starting group.
RCHS’s longest play from scrimmage was a 12-yard run by Zack Caldwell, and Markel Lee led the offense with 31 rushing yards on 10 carries.
“We just wanted to take the kids we had and do the best we could,” Prestridge said. “They played hard. They’re just inexperienced at those positions. If you haven’t been playing at that position all year, it’s a little bit different.”
RCHS will hope to start replenishing its ranks this week as it prepares for its regular season finale against Cleburne County. Prestridge said the quarantined players should be out of the two-week protocol by the time the first-round playoff game rolls around, but there’s no guarantees.
“I hope to have everybody back, but the way this stuff is going we don’t know from day to day, minute to minute or hour to hour what’s going to happen,” he said.
RCHS falls to 7-2 on the season with the loss to Comer. While it certainly came under extenuating circumstances, it’s the first time the Tigers have been shut out in a game since a 31-0 loss to Ohatchee in the third round of the playoffs in 2016. It was the first regular season shutout loss for RCHS since a 25-0 defeat against Isabella in week two of the 2013 season.