After getting gashed repeatedly on the ground by for nearly three quarters by Madison County’s triple-option offense Friday, Sept. 3, Apalachee’s defense rose to the occasion twice, forcing a pair of turnovers and giving the Wildcats’ offense — down just five points — a chance to take the lead and come away with the team’s first victory of the season.
But the Wildcats came up empty-handed on both opportunities, and that afforded Madison County enough time to regroup and get back rolling.
Sophomore Camden Smith’s 47-yard touchdown run with 1:59 remaining salted away a 29-17 road win at R. Harold Harrison Stadium, as the Red Raiders improved to 2-0 on the year. Apalachee, playing in its home opener, dropped to 0-3.
Smith’s backbreaking run capped a more than four-minute, nine-play scoring drive that spanned 86 yards after Apalachee punter Brody Ham had pinned Madison County back at its 14-yard line with 6:18 remaining. Logan Selk’s 20-yard run on the first play of the possession got the Raiders out of the hole, and they converted on two third-down attempts before Smith took a pitch in motion from Cooper Brown, darted between a pair of Apalachee defenders and raced off to the end zone untouched.
In all, the Raiders chewed up 362 yards on the ground — 391 yards of total offense — and each of their four scoring drives went 70 yards or longer with at least nine plays. They milked six minutes off the clock to start the game, marching 80 yards in 11 plays and grabbing an early lead when Zahmerius Shiflet found the end zone from 12 yards out and Smith’s successful run on the two-point conversion made it 8-0.
After an Apalachee three-and-out, Madison County went right back to work with a 10-play, 70-yard jaunt that ended with Trey Slayton’s 5-yard touchdown run, his first of two on the night, to extend the Raider lead to 15-0 with 9:22 left in the first half.
The Wildcats forced a three-and-out on Madison County’s next possession and then quickly moved 52 yards in four plays to get on the board with a 34-yard touchdown scamper by senior Colby Sikes with 2:26 to play.
Apalachee quickly got down to Madison County’s 21 on three plays to start the third quarter before having to settle for a field goal to trim its deficit to 15-10, but the Raiders responded with another 80-yard drive that ended in Slayton’s 3-yard plunge, putting the Raiders back up by 12 with 2:30 to go in the quarter.
The Wildcats, though, needed just one play to strike back on the ensuing possession, as Sikes, who finished with 157 yards on just 11 carries and a pair of touchdowns, motored 64 yards to bring his team back to within five.
Apalachee appeared to seize momentum when Gustavo Solis came away with a Raider fumble at the Madison County with 1:29 left in the third, but two critical offensive penalties — a chop block and an illegal block in the back — stalled that drive, and Ham’s 49-yard field goal try with 11 minutes left in the game floated short.
The Wildcat defense came up big again when Keaton Allen pounced on a loose ball at the Apalachee 43 with 8:25 to go, but a three-and-out turned it back over to the Raiders’ offense to put the finishing touches on their victory.
Brown led Madison County in rushing with 96 yards on 11 carries, while Smith finished with 91 yards on seven touches.
The Raiders will be back in action Sept. 10. when they host Stephens County.
M 8 7 7 7 — 29
A 0 7 10 0 — 17
M—Zahmerius Shiflet 12 run (Camden Smith run)
M—Trey Slayton 5 run (Logan McClure kick)
A—Colby Sikes 34 run (Brody Ham kick)
A—Ham 40 field goal
M—Slayton 3 run (McClure kick)
A—Sikes 64 run (Ham kick)
M—Smith 47 run (McClure kick)