Janet Schrader, Democrat Reporter
It was a district match and a must-win for Suwannee. The Bulldogs were up to the challenge. Rickards went down in a game that was marred by reffing that at times seemed very biased. It would have been a shut out, but the officials put Rickards so close to the goal line after several penalty calls on the Dogs and a dubious fumble recovered by Rickards, that all they had to do was fall forward and score. The final score was 28-7 Dogs.
Rickards has a speedy tailback that Suwannee dealt with by gluing Wayne "Super Gnat" Mitchell to for the entire game. #20 Mike Smith could not go a yard without Mitchell there to see he didn't go any further. Touted as a back that has never played in a game that he didn't rush for over 100 yards, Suwannee held Smith to 98 yards in 13 carries.
The star of the game for Suwannee was Bernard Williams. Williams had 100 yards rushing in the first quarter alone. He finished the night with 158 yards and three touchdowns. Williams was also named the First Federal Offensive Player of the Game.
The game got rolling with Suwannee losing the toss and Rickards electing to receive. Led by Delwyn Allen, Suwannee got right on the Raider quarterback with a strong blitz that forced a fumble. The ball was called dead, but the Raiders had to punt.
Bruce Johnson got the punt and returned it to the Dog 48. Williams carried the ball for Suwannee's first play of the night and pulled down a 19-yard gain and a first down. That's when the penalties started. But Suwannee managed to sustain their drive and Williams got the first TD of the night with Suwannee fourth down and two yard to go. He took it nine yards for the score. Suwannee was up 7-0 with 5:53 left in the first period.
The Timmy Smith kick off managed to stick the Raiders in a giant hole with terrible field position. Rickards had 84 yards to go to find the end zone.
Super Gnat Wayne Mitchell haunted Smith and the Raiders had to punt again. Suwannee's next drive was burdened with more penalties. The Dogs found themselves in a third and 14 position. But Patrick Cherry caught a Logan Hall pass for a 22-yard gain and a Dog first down. Alan Clayton made another great pass reception that was called back for another penalty. But the Dogs were not to be denied. Williams broke away made a gorgeous cut to the inside and blew the doors off the Raider defenders as he sped his way to the end zone and the second Suwannee TD in the fist period. The score was 14-0 with 1:47 left in the first period.
The blistering 77-yard Williams run put him over 100-yards gained with three quarters still to play.
Suwannee had the Raiders locked down on the run and super-Raider Smith could not move the ball. This forced the Raiders, basically a running team, to go to the air. But the Dog secondary was there. Defensive Coordinator Dan Marsee kept changing safeties and ends, putting fresh bodies in all the time. The Raiders discovered they couldn't pass against Suwannee either.
In the Dog's next drive Cherry made another great catch for a first down and a gain of 17. But the penalties started stacking up on the Dogs again, slowing the game to a crawl and sapping the drive's strength and momentum.
The Bulldogs had to punt and Logan Hall stuck the Raiders in terrible field position on the 12-yard line with a booming punt.
Petey Lovett joined Mitchell in this drive taking care of Smith. Rickards managed to get a first down close to the 50-yard line and Hall went in to play defensive end. This time it was Hall that caught Smith but not before he made another first down for the Raiders. Rickards went for the air and Jerome Carter almost sacked the Raider quarterback.
The Raiders got in close enough to make a field goal attempt. They got some help from the refs with an offsides call on the Dogs. The Raiders teed the ball up on the 25-yard line for a 35-yard field goal attempt. But the Raiders changed their mind and brought the offense back out on the field after calling two time outs. They decided to go for it on fourth and five yards to go and Delwyn Allen leveled the quarterback. Suwannee had the ball deep in their own territory.
Once again it was Williams gaining yards for the Dogs. He made a great run with another beautiful cut to the inside and a gain of 12 yards. Patrick Webb went into the game and gained seven yards for the Dogs. Williams picked up eight more yards but the drive fizzled and Hall had to punt for the Dogs again.
This punt went all the way into the end zone. The Raiders had the ball on their own 20-yard line.
There was less than a minute to go before the half. The Raiders began to slowly eat up the yards. Then the penalties really began. The refs called Coach Walls on a personal foul. Then they made a pass interference call that was iffy at best. It looked like the refs were trying to give the Raiders a touchdown.
In less than 6.8 seconds, the Raiders managed a field goal attempt and three pass plays. Hard to figure how that was possible. But the Raider drive failed even with all the help from the officials and the score at half-time was 14-0 Suwannee.
It was Homecoming for the Raiders. The half time show featured some great dancing and music from the Rickards band. The Homecoming Court paraded around the field on what was really a fabulous night, cool and breezy.
The Dogs received after the half. Alan Clayton carried the Dogs first play of the second half gaining a first down for the Dogs.
But the scoring drive fizzled deep in Suwannee territory and Hall had to punt from the 15-yard line. Hall nailed the punt and it took a Dog bounce putting the Raiders on their own 21. The Bulldog defense held again and Rickards had to punt.
This time Hall went to Bruce Johnson. Johnson completed a 60-yard pass play moving the Dogs to the Raider 13 and into scoring position again. With 4:42 left in the third period, Williams made a 12-yard run and scored his third touchdown of the night. It looked like the Dogs were going to shut Rickards out. The score was 21-0.
Suwannee chomped down hard on the Raiders in their next possession. The Dog D-line was getting great penetration, hunting for the Raider quarterback, dogging Smith and forcing them to take to the air.
But Smith finally got away from the Dog defense and carried the ball all the way to the Suwannee 10. But the Bulldogs made an awesome stand. Lovett picked off the hand-off man for a loss of yards. Then Hudson Dykes sacked the Raider quarterback. Delwyn Allen stopped the TD with a great tackle on the one-yard line. It was now a goal-line stand. The Dogs dug in and took over on downs at the one yard line.
And the refs stepped in again. Williams dropped the ball after it should have been blown dead and Rickards recovered. The officials gave it to the Raiders on the 10-yard line. With 7:28 left in the game, Rickards finally scored. The score was 21-14.
Then the worm turned and Suwannee got a lucky break. Smith fumbled the kick off and Seth Shaw was already down field far enough to make the recovery. Suwannee had the ball on the Rickard's 48 with 5:29 still remaining to play.
Walls put Delwyn Allen in as a linebacker on offense. Allen gained yards and a first down on his first offensive play of the game. Bruce Johnson made a big first down moving the ball all the way to the Raider 15.
Hall kept the ball for another Suwannee first down and the Dogs were knocking on the Raider door again.
This time it was Allen who got the TD for the Dogs. With 34 seconds left in the game, Allen scored from four yards out. Suwannee was up 28-7 with no time left. But the Dogs had one more kick off. Rickards fumbled their first play of this last series in the game and Mark Jones recovered. The game ended with Suwannee the victor 28-7.
This was a super-important game for Suwannee. On Halloween, the Dogs take on Godby for the district title. Godby defeated East Gadsden on Thursday 31-10. This made both Suwannee and Godby 2-0 in district play. Whichever team wins on Halloween will be the district champion. Suwannee's record goes to 2-0 in the district and 4-3 for the season.
The First Federal Offensive Player of the Game was Bernard Williams. Williams rushed for 158 yards in 24 carries.
The First Federal Defensive Player of the Game was Wayne "the Super Gnat" Mitchell. Super Gnat managed to hold Smith below 100 yards rushing.
Jarrell Clayton rushed for 22 yards in six carries. Logan Hall rushed for 22 yards in two carries. Hall also made six successful passes out of 11 attempts for 113 yards. Bruce Johnson caught two passes for 75 yards and Patrick Cherry caught two passes for 33 yards.
Suwannee travels to Alabama next week to take on Paul W. Bryant High School in Tuscaloosa. This is Bryant's first year in existence and their first year with a football program. If you can't make it to the game listen to it on big 98. Andy Day and Dale Allen will be traveling with the team to Alabama. The game starts at 8 p.m. our time and 7 p.m. Alabama time. Tune in or travel with the team. Go Dogs!
Janet Schrader may be reached by calling 1/386/362-1734 ext. 132 or by e-mail at email@example.com.