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TCHS overcomes trick plays to beat Gardendale

Tuscaloosa County's Derrick Burns runs the ball against Gardendale as John Michael Clark blocks a defender Friday at Tuscaloosa County High School in Northport. (Photo by Jason Harless)

NORTHPORT | As special teams blunders and defensive miscues began to mount in the first quarter, the Tuscaloosa County Wildcats fought back with forced turnovers, defensive stands and sustained drives to take an opening round 38-28 win over the Gardendale Rockets in the Class 6A playoffs.

The Wildcat defense, coming into the game averaging less than 10 points per game and having given up more than 20 points just once in 10 games, was caught off-guard by several trick plays.

The Rockets ran a double-reverse toss for 9 yards, a hook-and-lateral for 21 yards and three reverses with a fake for a double-reverse for 28 yards. The Rockets also ran a halfback pass for a 29-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

“They’ve had a bunch of them,” TCHS coach Lee Gibson said. “We’ve seen them, they just had to execute, and they did.”

The Wildcat offense was able to respond with a prolific passing attack, led by quarterback Tyler Gates.

“He’s come on in the last four games and played like a senior should play,” Gibson said.

Gates threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns against the Rockets, including assembling a five-play, 54-yard touchdown drive in 25 seconds to end the first half.

“It all comes down to good play calling from the coaches,” Gates said. “Our offensive line was incredible tonight, I don’t think anybody got close to me. The receivers caught anything thrown near them. It’s just a great team to be a part of.”

Gates had success throwing over the middle, finding Brandon Hall twice over the middle in the first half, both completions for 22 yards each.

“That’s what we’ve been practicing all week,” Gates said. “We saw that on film and thought that would be a weakpoint. We tried to attack that early and often.”

Tylan Perry was a popular target for Gates, catching seven of his passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Perry also carried the ball for 77 yards on 14 carries.

“He always finds a way to get open,” Gates said.

Gibson added, “Tylan Perry’s played well, Derrick Burns has played well, but for any of that to happen, those five guys up front have to play well.”

Allen Cooks was on the receiving end of Gates’ third and final touchdown pass, a 14-yard catch with 11:08 left in the game.

The Wildcats got a 2-yard rushing touchdown from Ted Colburn, who also contributed a sack and a fumble recovery with 4:31 left in the fourth quarter. County High’s other rushing touchdown came from Burns on a 10-yard carry.

Tuscaloosa County (9-2) will host Clay-Chalkville in the second round of the playoffs next Friday.