The Eminence Warriors have relied on a balance of passing and running to win football games over the last several seasons, but that changed Friday night when they took on the Trimble County Raiders.
The Warriors used their third quarterback of the season, Jalen Dixie, and found that running the ball against the Raiders was an effective way to break in the first-time starting quarterback.
Dixie, normally a wide receiver, responded to the new challenge with an efficient game. He was 5-of-7 passing for 68 yards and a touchdown pass with one interception, and ran the ball 6 times for 48 yards.
“I was really pleased with the way Jalen handled the situation,” coach Steve Frommeyer said. “He’s been a team player in terms of playing whatever position we’ve asked him to play. He is a talented young man with a lot of potential.”
The Warriors have been trying to adjust to losing starting quarterback Justin Mitchell in the Atherton game. Mitchell sustained a back injury last year and is having problems with his back again, and it is uncertain when or if he will return. That has forced Frommeyer and his coaching staff to change the emphasis they put on running and passing.
The game was more of a grind it out game than the Warriors normally play. Each team had long drives that featured tough running for just enough yards to sustain the drives.
“The kind of game it was was partially dictated by their style of play and partially because of our quarterback situation,” Frommeyer said.
Shelby Armstrong carried the bulk of the load for the Warriors rushing 19 times for 121 yards.
DeMarcus Bailey also contributed with a short touchdown run and a 28-yard touchdown reception.
The Warriors got off to a rare strong start. “We scored first on our first possession,” Frommeyer said. “We haven’t done that much this year.”
The Warriors took the opening kick and sustained a long drive down field. Bailey got the first score on a two-yard run. Armstrong scored the two-point conversion to give the Warriors an 8-0 lead with a couple of minutes left in the first quarter.
After stopping the Raiders, the Warriors took over and made another long drive that culminated in a three-yard touchdown run for Shelby Armstrong.
Mitchell Golden caught the conversion pass on a quick hitter but was brought down just short of the goal line. That left the Warriors with a 14-0 lead going into halftime.
Trimble County came back to start the second half with a drive similar to the one Eminence had to open the game.
According to Frommeyer, the Raiders moved the ball on short runs and converted on several clutch third down plays. After eating up 10 minutes of the third quarter, the Raiders punched in on a 1-yard quarterback sneak. “They had the ball with a first down on the five-yard line,” Frommeyer said. We made a good goal line stand but they managed to get in the end zone on fourth down.”
The conversion run failed, leaving the Raiders facing a 14-8 deficit.
The Warriors responded on their next possession with a quick drive down field for their final score of the game. Dixie found Bailey on a 28-yard pass for his second touchdown of the game. Hayden Hoofman ran in the conversion to make it 22-6.
But the Raiders followed the same script that had given them their first touchdown by grinding it out from their own 38-yard line for another score on a 3-yard run with about three minutes remaining in the game.
Cornelius Sanford, who had a big night defensively on his return from an injured knee, stopped the conversion run. Sanford went out in the first quarter of the first game of the season and thought his career might be over. But he was cleared to return to action last week and it paid off for the Warriors.
“That was a huge stop by Cornelius,” Frommeyer said. “It kept the game a two-score game with only three minutes left. People don’t realize what it has meant to have him out of the lineup. He had nine big tackles in the game.”
The Warriors were able to drive down field to within the Raider 20-yard line before taking a knee to run out the clock and secure a hard-fought victory.
“Shelby Armstrong played another great game on both sides of the ball,” Frommeyer said. “Hayden played well. He ran to the ball real well which is a big improvement for him this week.”