Among the many things Jim Kremer learned as Hal Lamb's longtime defensive coordinator at Calhoun was the value of aggression and that it's always best to make the first statement in a football game.
Kremer's Adairsville Tigers made their coach proud on both counts Friday in a hard-hitting 24-14 Region 7-AA playoff play-in game at LFO's Tommy Cash Stadium. The 9-1 Tigers, who will play at Oconee County in next week's GHSA playoffs, twice converted fourth-down situations in getting off to a 10-0 lead, the second proving to be the game's biggest play.
The team's first drive netted a Dakota Hines 30-yard field goal, and after holding LFO to one first down, the Tigers took over at midfield. They were facing a fourth-and-7 from the 17 when Kremer disdained the field goal and went for a little trickery that worked to perfection. Trey Gulledge's halfback pass to Christian Howell fooled the LFO defense, with Howell standing alone in the end zone for the easy score.
"We have a lot of confidence in our defense, so we weren't afraid to roll the dice there," the third-year head coach said. "It was very physical. LFO started out slow the first part of the year, but they were a very formidable and physical opponent tonight. We like it physical too, but even though we had several chances to put it away, they never went away. They showed a lot of heart and we did too."
Indeed, the Warriors (4-6) controlled play in the second quarter but missed an opportunity with 2:14 to play on a missed 27-yard field-goal try. Still, after a three-and-out and a short punt, LFO went 39 yards just before halftime to get on the board.
The Warriors' key play was a fourth-down conversion of their own, a 27-yard Dexter Scudgins-to-Jackson Wallin catch and run to the 12, where senior running back Bubba Cruz scored on the next play.
Adairsville, limited to 87 yards rushing in the first half, finally got the ground game going midway through the third behind workhorse tailback Mike Upshaw. His 17-yard run keyed a 52-yard drive that resulted in his 15-yard touchdown run and a 16-7 lead.
LFO kept it close, but a stiff Adairsville defense kept 1,000-yard rusher Cruz in control, allowing him just 62 yards on 21 carries. The Tigers put the game away with a 57-yard drive, capped by Upshaw's second score, this one from 10 yards out early in the final period.
"I felt confident we could play with them physically, but there were too many times we were inconsistent offensively," LFO coach Todd Windham said. "We want to run the ball and move the chains, but we weren't able to do that and had to throw it more than we wanted to."