A pair of turnovers had marred Dale County’s first two possessions, but nothing could prepare the Warriors for what happened next.
The turnovers had led to a pair of Catholic touchdowns and the Knights finished off the shell-shocked visitors with a perfectly executed onside kick, turning into a touchdown five plays later on the way to a 48-0 rout on Friday night.
“We just saw their front guy on the kickoff bailing as soon as the kick,” Catholic coach Aubrey Blackwell said. “It’s just something we saw on tape. We knew we try it on our second kickoff.”
The Knights scored on their next three possessions as well, jumping out to a 42-0 halftime lead as Darrell Gibson’s 22-yard touchdown run put the exclamation mark on the first half. Gibson finished with 129 yards on just eight carries, slicing up the Warrior defense in the process.
“We knew what we had to do,” Gibson said. “We know what we’ve got, we know how many weapons we’ve got, so we used them to the best of our ability and we got the job done. I underestimate no team, I just know what Catholic is going to do when we get on the field.”
The explosion made up for the struggle the week before as the Knights were fortunate to beat Anniston 14-13.
“We won the game 14-13, but we should’ve beaten the team by 40,” Gibson said. “We came back with the mentality on Monday that our offense has to put up more points and we’ve got to get the job done. So we were locked in and we executed and we did our thing.”
Dale County (1-2) held the Knights to a three-play possession to open the game and started driving toward the Catholic goal. On the 10th play, quarterback Ethan Teal bobbled the exchange with his running back and Catholic T.J. Dudley grabbed the ball and sprinted 15 yards before he was tackled.
Three plays later, quarterback Christian Ivey found DJ Carter behind everyone for a 50-yard touchdown pass. Zack Pappanastos added the first of six extra points for a 7-0 lead.
Three plays later, Teal’s pass over the middle was tipped by Catholic’s Dean Johnson and teammate Jonathan Rhoden intercepted on the Dale County 26. Gibson ran 15 yards and Ivey ran the remaining 11 for a quick two-touchdown lead, setting the stage for Michael Russo’s onside kick.
Russo recovered his own kick and five plays later Ivey scored on a 1-yard plunge with 10 seconds left in the first quarter.
“Coming into it, I didn’t know how we’d play,” Blackwell said. “I knew one thing: We were really upset, as a group, at our performance last week. We had a great week of practice because our guys came out and were really physical and intent. I knew with our focus, we were going to play well, I just didn’t know how Dale County was going to play.
“I was proud of our offense in general, from not playing well last week to doing what they were supposed to do this week – playing fast and we distributed the ball well.”
Ivey, who had accounted for the first three scores, added a 40-yard scoring run and a 56-yard touchdown pass to Myles Butler on the next two possessions, ending his night with 69 yards and three touchdowns on five carries and completing 6 of 7 passes for 120 yards and two more scores.
Carter added a 36-yard touchdown run on the Knights’ first possession of the second half to finish the evening for the starters. Dudley had six tackles in addition to his fumble return, followed by Marcus Dees and Jalen Thomas with five tackles each as Catholic improved to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in region play for only the sixth time ever (along with three similar starts in area play) and only the second time since 2008.
The Knights play host to Alabama Christian on Friday.