By Jonathan Deal
Any worries that Tanner might be rusty after having a bye week entering the playoffs were put to rest in opening minutes of Friday’s first round game against Sand Rock. The Rattlers jumped out to a 28-0 first quarter lead on their way to a comfortable 55-0 opening round win.
“I thought we played well,” Tanner coach Laron White said. “We got a couple more days preparation on these guys and that helped. I thought we looked sharp, especially on the offensive line. So goes the offensive line, so goes us and they came out and played well. Of course the defense rose up as well.”
Tanner’s defense harassed Sand Rock quarterback Dylan Mackey from the opening snap and held the visitors to 45 total yards in the shut out. The Rattlers routinely made tackles for loss, limiting Sand Rock to negative 19 yards rushing.
“The quarterback had a big arm and we wanted to keep him off balance and I thought we did that tonight,” White said. “Us getting a short field and getting a couple of scores along with them being backed up and getting some pressure on him helped us out a little bit.”
Tanner scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions through the first three quarters of play. From the opening kick, Tanner put the visitors on the back foot. Alex Rios’ kick pinned the Wildcats inside their own 10-yard and nearly had a safety on the second play of the game before forcing a punt from the 1-yard line.
Hayden Stephens put Tanner on the board first with a 20-yard run. After another quick three-and-out, it only took Stephens one play to find the end zone again on a 36-yard touchdown run.
Tanner’s defense forced another punt so quickly, Stephens had to catch his breath while Fred Rich capped a 4-play, 34-yard drive with an 7-yard touchdown run. As the Sand Rock defense crept up to stop the run, Tanner made them pay on its next possession with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Jonathan Fletcher to Blake Whitt to make it 27-0 as time expired in the first quarter. Fletcher was 3 for 3 for 46 yards on the drive.
“We were ready to play tonight,” said Fletcher. “We were getting anxious after not playing for so long.”
Stephens and Rich added two more touchdowns and Tanner took a 41-0 halftime lead. The third quarter was no different as Stephens added his fourth touchdown of the game on a 5-yard rush on Tanner’s first possession of the second half.
It turned out to Stephens final carry of the night. The junior running back finished with
11 carries for 102 yards and four touchdowns. Rich added 90 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Fletcher finished the scoring for Tanner on their first possession of the fourth quarter with a 24-yard pass to Greg Maclin. The sophomore quarterback finished the game completing 6 of 7 passes for 129 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Maclin led Tanner with four receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown.
“We’ve very pleased with him. He’s been able to make good decisions,” White said about his quarterback. “If something’s not there, he’s able to pull it down and scramble a little bit. As long as he keeps making good decisions and not forcing the ball, he’ll be fine.”
Tanner (10-0) will host Walter Wellborn in the second round next week.