Straughn ends season with second-round loss to Thomasville, 33-21

Published 11:46 pm Friday, November 17, 2023

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Thomasville took advantage of miscues and came up big in the running game for a 33-21 win at Straughn in the AHSAA second round of the state playoffs Friday night.

Head Coach Ashley Kilcrease said the team was disappointed but gave credit to his opponent.

“We feel like we did not play our greatest game, but they have a really good football team. That running back might be the best we saw all year. They did a good job getting the ball to him, and we had a hard time tackling him. We picked a bad night to have turnovers, but I am so proud of these kids. They won their first region championship in 14 years and a playoff game. We lost to a good Thomasville team, and that’s nothing to hold your head down about,” Kilcrease said.

Thomasville (10-1) began the game at the 28-yard line and made one first down with a 22-yard run by Decorian Cowan to midfield. The drive ultimately stalled as the visitors had to punt. Straughn (10-2) took over at its own 23 and received an 8-yard run from Grant Barnes on second down. Layne Grantham moved the chains with a 3-yard run before the defense stood up and forced a punt.

The second drive opened up the game’s first score. Cowan earned a first down on second-and-1 before a holding call moved the ball back to the 32. After a 7-yard run by Dallas Bryant, Beau Bryant found John Figgers open on a 69-yard pass to the 1, where Parker Black made a tackle. Cowan then scored on the very next play, and Clinton Thompson added the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 5:30 left in the opening quarter. Straughn had back-to-back 10-yard runs by Grantham and Barnes on its next possession. Grantham then went to the air for a 19-yard completion to Barnes. Cameron Adams followed with a 3-yard run aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to the opposing 11. Two plays later, Thomasville had a takeaway when Kyron Horn intercepted the ball.

A big 54-yard pass on second-and-12 of the next drive came before the end of the first. Cowan started the second quarter with a 4-yard run and then capped the drive on a 5-yard touchdown run. Diego Bryant was true on the two-point try and extended the lead to 15-0 with 10:03 until halftime.

Barnes and Grantham picked up steam on the ground with four first-down runs. The eleventh play of the drive saw Grantham go to the air, where he found Mack McIntyre wide open. Brenden Bartholomew was true on the extra point and brought the score to 15-7 with 5:12 to go until the break.

Thomasville responded back with a 9-play, 76-yard drive. Cowan converted three first downs and finished with a 5-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion was no good and left the score 21-7 with 1:12 to go until halftime. Ryan Cobb recovered a fumble on defense just before the break, but Straughn was unable to score.

Starting at the 38-yard line, Grantham had a 10-yard run on the first play of the second half. Three plays later, Grantham connected with Black on a 56-yard touchdown pass. Bartholomew’s PAT trimmed the deficit to 21-14 with 10:27 to go in the third quarter. Thomasville then moved the ball down the field off the feet of Cowan and reached the 2-yard line before Straughn held and forced a turnover on downs.

After a personal foul made for some breathing room at the 19, Straughn had to punt but maintained possession when McIntyre recovered a fumble on a bobbled return. Thomasville held and blocked another punt attempt before Cowan scored a 43-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. The two-point conversion failed again, but the score moved to 27-14.

Straughn started at its own 40 and moved across midfield on a pass interference call. Adams had a first-down carry to the opposing 35 before another pass interference. Barnes scored from two yards out on the fifth play, and Bartholomew split the uprights to bring the score to 27-21 at the end of three. Cowan continued to surge on the ground and scored a 7-yard touchdown run. The two-point try was no good, and Thomasville extended its lead to 33-21 with 10:38 to go.

A fumble on the next home drive thwarted a drive in visiting territory, and neither side posed a threat the rest of the game.

Despite the loss, Straughn broke a school record for the most points scored in a single season with 428 points, which eclipsed the 2014 team’s total of 418.

“I am proud of this team, and it was an amazing year that cannot be defined in one night. It does not take away everything we accomplished this season,” Kilcrease said.