TRENTON, Ga. - The Dade County Wolverines walked away with the short end of the wishbone Friday night in their first-round GHSA Class AA playoff showdown against Kendrick.
Facing the ultimate throwback in ground-and-pound offenses from the 1960s and '70s, the youthful Wolverines showed great poise against Kendrick's relentless wishbone running attack in what became an old-fashioned ground war.
Using a couple of well-timed plays from the wishbone, Kendrick rushed to a 12-0 road playoff victory that ended the Wolverines' season.
While the Cherokees (7-4) finished with 196 yards rushing on 43 carries and they owned the overall time of possession, the Wolverines (7-4) stayed within striking distance for most of the game by putting up 182 yards of total offense -- with 120 of that total coming in the second half.
The Wolverines played most of the game from behind as Kendrick cashed a fumbled punt deep in Dade territory for a 6-0 lead. Kendrick's Triston Dodwell scored from 17 yards out with 5:34 left in the first quarter. However, the Dade defense came up with key plays to keep Kendrick from scoring for the next two quarters.
"We had a bad snap on the punt and that put us behind," said Dade County coach Bradley Warren. "At the half, we felt like that, if we could hold them there, we could come back and win the game, 7-6. And we ended up in a position where we were 7 or 8 yards away from going up, 7-6."
The Wolverines defense provided the spark and the opportunity for the game-changing drive midway through the third quarter. Dallas Robinson's interception of Kendrick's Jonathan Hines stopped a drive at the Dade 17.
The Wolverines, led by the rushing of Aaron Williams and Zac Freeman along with a 26-yard pass play from Houston Poston to Mike Williams, drove to the Kendrick 7 yard line. Faced with a fourth-and-4 at the Kendrick 7 with less than eight minutes left in the game, Warren elected to try a 25-yard field goal that would have cut the lead to three points. However, the kick was no good and Kendrick's Reno Lee ran from the wishbone to pick up 77 yards on the next three plays.
Dade was stout in a goal-line stand to end that series, but the offense surrendered the ball on downs and Lee scored from 9 yards out to ice the game with 3:06 left.
"Hindsight is 20-20. If we had to do it over again, we might go for it," said Warren, whose field-goal decision may have been influenced by Kendrick's 320-pound Zykeem Wright and his dominant play up front. "We're a real young team and I am proud of our team. I felt like our seniors did a great job of laying the groundwork, and I feel like our underclassman really came along this year. It was a good year and we'll be back."
"The key for us was just getting out and powering up our offense," Kendrick coach Jerry Dukes said. "We were fortunate to get out of here with a win. Even though we made some mistakes, we took advantage of our opportunities. But [Dade] is a good, young team. It's good to get a playoff win on the road."
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