Safety gives Tift 8-7 edge in Lowndes scrimmage 12 days ago
Safety gives Tift 8-7 edge in Lowndes scrimmage
Tyler Parker evades a defender's grasp during an 18-yard touchdown grab, courtesy of a Carlton Brannon pass in the 2nd.
Safety gives Tift 8-7 edge in Lowndes scrimmage
Antavio Pierce lands at the 8 on a 3rd quarter reception.

TIFTON - The score from Friday's Tift County-Lowndes scrimmage looked much different than it did when the teams met for a spring game back in May. The most noticeable of these changes was that in final score.

Not only was there much less combined scoring between the two, but this time around it was Tift County on top, 8-7.

"It's a great scrimmage," said Tift head coach Noel Dean. "The kids played really hard. I was really impressed by our coaching staff and our kids."

The difference was a safety, a by-product of intentional grounding in the end zone, which happened when a pair of Blue Devils pass rushers caught Tate Sirmans with no place to go late in the 3rd quarter.

The safety came with 17 seconds left in the 3rd. Tift ran one place off the ensuing free kick, winding down the rest of the clock.

Junior varsity squads took over in the 4th. Neither of them scored, leaving the 8-7 varsity total.

It was the debut for assistant Will Flowers as defensive coordinator.

"Outstanding," said Dean of Flowers' unit. "I can't say enough about them. What those kids are doing on the inside of the ball - Will Flowers has done an amazing job."

Carlton Brannon's passing game, Tift's defense and a bushel and peck of Lowndes penalties played major roles.

Brannon completed 12-of-19 on the night for an unofficial 149 yards and a touchdown He completed his first six tosses of the 3rd, but it was a miss that set up the safety, which turned into the winning points.

Antavio Pierce gained 20 yards on a Brannon passes, from the 28 to the 8 late in the 3rd, setting up first-and-goal.

Lowndes stiffened there and C.J. Brown made an interception to end the drive. However, Brown was down at the 1, but the Vikings between a rock and a hard place, especially as Tift's defenders were now getting steady pressure on Sirmans.

The first snap after the interception saw Tift blitz. Sirmans tried to escape but with centimeters to spare from the back line of the end zone, spiked the ball there.

The Devils spent most of their night in Vikings territory. perhaps a bit surprising after Lowndes' first town possessions.

On the second play of the scrimmage, Jacarre Fleming darted 55 yards to the Blue Devils' 6. In a sign of what was to come all night, Lowndes immediately lost three yards there and committed a false start.

At the 14, Jaden Nelson jumped a receiver's route, taking the purloined pigskin all the way back to his own 35.

Tift picked up two quick first downs, one on an offsides penalty and the other on a run by Pierce. However, it was their turn to make a mistake and Lowndes capitalized.

A punt snap sailed over the head of Antonio Gomez, forcing him to cover the ball on the 19.

Sirmans wasted no time finding Jacarre Fleming on a short pass and Fleming darted and dodged his way from Tift's sideline to the middle of the field, scoring at 13:50.

The kick was good and the Vikings were ahead 7-0.

Tift shook that off quickly. A 21-yard completion to Pierce moved the locals to Lowndes' 40. There, they shook off a motion penalty to pick up a first on a 19-yard pass to Damion Moate.

When the 2nd period began, the Devils were on the 10. They lost yardage back to the 18, but Brannon threw a fade to the back corner of the end zone, where Tyler Parker not only reeled it in, but kept his feet inbounds for a touchdown at 10:54.

Lowndes kept the score from turning into a tie with Mekhi Crawford blocking the extra point try.

Both teams ran out of downs on their next possessions. The Blue Devils were in another goal line situation on theirs after McKyler Horne jumped and held on to a 32-yard pass at the 7.

Lowndes' defense came through again. Brannon's third down pass was tipped away and they forced an incompletion on fourth.

Keylan Hicks had a six-yard completion and Sirmans ran for 11 on a drive, but those pesky penalties kept them from moving forward. A hold came between the two plays.

Brannon had a third down pass go off a streaking Parker's fingertips later in the half, then Tift almost had another prime scoring opportunity after Lee Jackson stripped a receiver of the ball.

Tift took over at the 32, but had no timeouts left. Titus Beauford sped to a first down at the 21, but they could not get a snap off in time to spike the ball.

Kaleb Lewis sacked Sirmans in the 3rd period and Tift began to move with ease.

Brannon completed three consecutive passes on his first drive, then added three more on the second. All went to Parker and all went for first downs. Pierce took another 20 yards down to the 8 before Brown came up with his pick.

In the 4th quarter, Jayden Green quarterbacked the Blue Devils with Kobe Pierce getting most of the running opportunities.

Defenses dominated for both sides as the opposing lines struggled to keep the other side out of the backfield.

Besides his 149 yards and 12 completions, Brannon had a touchdown pass to Parker. Parker had the most receptions, at 5 (for 38 yards), with Pierce the yardage leader through the air at 49 yards (on three catches).

"I thought our offense did really well," Dean said. "We're a young team. We moved the ball."

Sirmans completed 7-of-13 attempts for an unofficial 76 yards.

Penalties were very costly to Lowndes. They were flagged 11 times in the varsity portion, six of those for offsides. Tift had only three penalties, covering 15 yards.

Dean said his squad still needed to work on special teams. Besides the high snap that led to a Lowndes score and the blocked kick, there was another high snap that Gomez somehow jumped to catch and was to get the punt away.

The Blue Devils will be idle next week as most of the state's teams scrimmage. They open up the regular season Aug. 19 against Coffee at home, which will also be Senior Night.