SPRING GARDEN – In 2015, the Spring Garden brother-sister duo of junior kicker Kaitlyn Rogers and senior lineman Ethan Rogers made high school football history.
With 4:01 left in the fourth quarter, behind the block of Ethan Rogers, Kaitlyn Rogers found the end zone on a 6-yard run for Spring Garden’s final touchdown in a 50-6 victory over Coosa Christian.
Earlier in the game, Ethan Rogers scored on a 1-yard touchdown run as the two became the first brother-sister duo to score touchdowns in the same high school game in Alabama.
Kaitlyn Rogers is believed to be the only female to score a touchdown in a high school game in the AHSAA.
That feat has been accomplished a few times in leagues outside the AHSAA.
CEDAR BLUFF – During the 2015 campaign the Tigers won their 500th football game in school history with a 46-20 win over their longtime Cherokee County rival Gaylesville.
Freshman tailback Ivory Starr rushed for 275 yards, including 206 in the third quarter, on 14 carries and scored three touchdowns on runs of 69, 43 and 42 yards. Sophomore defensive back Isaiah Jones also returned a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown, recovered another fumble on a kickoff, and caught a 57-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Josh Decker in the Tiger victory.
Coach Jonathan McWhorter’s Tigers improved the Class 1A school’s overall record to 500-301-21 – dating back to the first season in 1930. In that time, there’s been 15 area/region championships won, including a Class 1A, Region 7 title this season.
There has also been three state championships awarded to the Tigers by The Birmingham News (1959, 1961, 1962), and a state runner-up finish in the AHSAA state playoffs in 2006.
Cedar Bluff’s faithful also celebrated the program’s 85th anniversary by honoring all former football players and coaches at halftime of the Tigers’ 80th meeting with Gaylesville.
The Tigers went on to another Class 1A state runner-up trophy finishing the 2015 season at 13-2.
CHEROKEE COUNTY – Cherokee County High School football coach Tripp Curry clinched his 150th win overall as a head coach with a 45-6 victory at White Plains during the 2015 season.
Early in the season, in a win over Sardis, Curry earned his 100th win with the Warrior program.
Curry is 101-69 overall in his 15th season with the Warriors, including the school’s only football state title in 2009. Included in his win total are five seasons at Springville where Curry collected 49 victories.
Downey leads Spring Garden to historic win in AHSAA Football Playoffs by Grant Benefield, Cherokee County Herald Sports Correspondent
SPRING GARDEN – The Spring Garden Panthers came into Friday night’s first-round playoff match against Talladega County Central searching for the school’s first-ever home playoff victory.
The Panthers only other chance at that milestone came in last year’s home playoff matchup against Marion County, a 48-19 loss.
Spring Garden had other plans for their second attempt at history, and this time, they accomplished the feat with a 39-16 victory.
Friday’s playoff game was a rematch from Week 5 of the regular season, won by the Tigers 32-14.
It was especially anticipated by Spring Garden junior quarterback Ben Ivey and junior fullback Quintin Downey, who were sidelined during the Panthers’ first game against the Tigers due to injury.
“After they beat us, they said they were ready for Q,” Ivey said. “I reminded him of that every day of practice this week, and I think that really fired him up.”
Added Downey: “I came out and did the best I could do for my team. They said they were ready for me, so I wanted to find out what they had.”
Downey pounded the Tigers for 178 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the win.
The game got off to a slow start, with neither team able to get on the scoreboard in the first quarter. Penalties were a recurring theme in Friday’s game, killing drives for both teams.
Spring Garden (8-3) would reach the end zone first in the second quarter, with Downey scampering five yards for his first touchdown of the night. Ivey would find running back Dakota Lambert for the 2-point conversion pass, giving the Panthers an 8-0 lead.
The Panthers would return to the end zone just three minutes later, with Downey earning his second score of the night on another 5-yard carry. Downey would also provide the 2-point conversion, increasing the Panther lead to 16-0.
The Tigers (6-4) would make a surge before the end of the half, making it inside the Panther 10-yard line, but Spring Garden made a goal-line stand, led by senior tackle Sam Parris, to force a turnover on downs. The Panthers took a 16-0 lead into halftime.
The Tigers finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter thanks to a 2-yard rush from quarterback Darrell Maple. Running back Kylen Cross would follow with a 2-point conversion rushing, cutting the Panther lead in half, 16-8.
The Panthers would respond with Downey’s third touchdown of the night, a 3-yard rush. Ivey scampered in for the 2-point conversion, making the score 24-8.
The fourth quarter didn’t get off to a good start for the Panthers. A Lambert fumble was recovered by Tiger defender Damion Swain, but the ensuing Tiger drive would also end with a fumble, recovered by the Panthers’ PJay Smith. Downey would score his final touchdown of the night on another 2-yard scamper. Ivey once again delivered the 2-point conversion to give the Panthers a 32-8 lead.
The Tigers would continue fighting, however, with Cross pounding in an 11-yard touchdown rush. Cross finished the game with 153 yards on 17 carries.
Spring Garden capped the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown rush from Lambert, followed by Kaitlyn Rogers’ extra point.
Spring Garden defensive back Jonah Smith put the exclamation point on the Panther victory by intercepting a deep pass in the game’s final seconds.
“I’m tickled to death for them,” Spring Garden coach Jason Howard said. “We’re big about leaving a legacy, and I asked them ‘What’s your legacy going to be? Are you going to do what everybody else has done, or are you going to take it to another level?’ They took it to another level.”
Spring Garden will travel next week to eighth-ranked Decatur Heritage (10-1). Decatur Heritage defeated Meek 29-28 in other first-round playoff action on Thursday.
Legendary Coach Bobby Joe Johnson honored with Lifetime Achievement Award
On Jan. 24, Bobby Joe Johnson was honored with the Alabama Football Coaches Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The banquet was held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Montgomery.
Johnson began his coaching career in 1966 at Cherokee County High School. His 1984 Warrior team finished Class 4A state runner-up. Johnson retired from Cherokee County in 1992, but began a second coaching term at Saks in 1993. He guided the Wildcats to a Class 5A state runner-up in 1996 before leaving to take an assistant coaching job at Trion, Ga. Johnson later took on the head coaching reigns there and coached until 1999, the same year he was inducted into the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Hall of Fame. Johnson was also inducted into the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 2005.
Johnson accumulated over 200 wins throughout his coaching career. He guided 15 teams to the playoffs, with eight of those winning area/region championships. Fifty-three of his players signed college football scholarships.