Although it was only a scrimmage game, Commerce fans likely were happy with what they witnessed Friday night as the Tigers racked up 365 yards of total offense, routing Franklin County 27-14.
Senior Tiger quarterback Drew Whitfield rushed 11 times for 45 yards and three touchdowns. Whitfield also completed two passes for 28 yards.
The Tigers’ ground game was a force, rotating carries among a platoon of 11 different backs. Freshman running back Cole Chancey picked up 81 yards on 13 carries, while senior speedster Jamir Walton earned 69 yards on 10 attempts. Fullback Chance McClure also picked up a large chunk of yardage, racking up 31 yards in five carries.
Seven Commerce backs averaged at least five yards a carry, which helped the Tigers to pick up 19 first downs compared to Franklin County’s four.
Head coach Mike Brown said he was particularly impressed with the play of his running back corps.
“I’m pleased with the way the backs played,” Brown said. “I thought they did a pretty good job. They blocked well and ran well for the most part.”
While Brown said he was happy with the overall effort, he noted that there are still some kinks to work out at practice.
“When you watch a film, it’s never as good as it looks on Friday night, but it’s usually not as bad either,” Brown said. “There were several things we need to work on. The line of scrimmage has to play a lot better for us to be successful. I was kind of disappointed in some of our techniques, but for an opening scrimmage, it looked OK.”
Following halftime, Commerce and Franklin County both put their second teams on the field and allowed their younger players to gain some experience under the lights.
Brown noted impressive performances by freshman quarterback Matthew Flint (five carries for 23 yards) and running back Will Thomas (three carries for 25 yards).
“All those young guys played hard and got after it,” said Brown. “Certainly they made a lot of mistakes, but they got after it. Everybody that was suited up got to get in the game by the fourth quarter. I was pleased to see everybody be able to get in and contribute.”
The Tigers were solid on special teams, with kicker Nahum Mendoza going three-for-three on extra points.
While the scrimmage win over Franklin County certainly means little when it comes to the regular season, it did provide the Tigers some acclimation to the Friday night atmosphere. Commerce coaches and players will now go back to work for the next two weeks, making adjustments in preparation for the annual season-opening rivalry bout with Jefferson on Aug. 30 at Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers opened up the night with a 13-play, 80-yard drive capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Whitfield.
The Lions quickly answered on a 47-yard touchdown pass, but missed the PAT, putting the score at 7-6.
Commerce responded by marching down the field again, this time, going 75 yards before another one-yard Whitfield score.
Following a Franklin County punt, the Tigers chewed up the clock en route to another Whitfield touchdown run capping a 63-yard drive.
Commerce was up 21-6 at the half.
The Tigers would score once more in the fourth quarter on a two-yard run by Flint, following an 11-play, 54-yard drive.
The Lions broke a 44-yard touchdown run on their final possession, putting the score at 27-14, as the game clock expired.
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