DANIELS

Commerce standout freshman Jaiden Daniels ran for 229 yards and four touchdowns on 38 carries in the Tigers' 31-20 victory over Washington-Wilkes Friday (Oct. 29). 

Two nights before Halloween, Commerce’s running game showed just how scary it can be.

The Tigers’ ground attack mauled eighth-ranked Washington-Wilkes to the tune of 392 yards as Commerce pulled off a 31-20 upset victory Friday at home. The Tigers (6-3, 3-1 Region 8-A Public) will play for the region title Nov. 5 at Lincoln County.

“We knew our offense had to have ball control,” Commerce coach Mark Hollars said. “And we’ve done it this year, but we always fumble or we always have penalties, but tonight our kids did it when it counted and they really did it when it mattered most.”

With the win, Commerce bounced back from a disappointing loss to Social Circle last week and scored a signature victory in its first year under Hollars.

“This is a big win for our kids,” Hollars said. “You know, Year 1, when you come in, it’s always a challenge to build trust, and we needed a game like this to just kind of validate what we’ve been doing.”

With the game tied 14-14 in the second quarter, Commerce reeled off 17-straight points to build a 31-14 fourth-quarter lead en route to its second-straight win over Washington-Wilkes.

Freshman sensation Jaiden Daniels was sensational again, rushing 38 times for 229 yards and four touchdowns. His final touchdown of the night, a 9-yard score, gave the Tigers a commanding 17-point lead with 7:15 left in the game. Fullback Draylen Martin added 152 yards on 29 carries as Commerce out-rushed Washington-Wilkes 392-78.

“We told them all week, the key to this game is going to be blocking,” Hollars said. “I mean, really, football is not a hard game. It’s about blocking and tackling, and I thought our backs blocked well. I thought our people up front blocked well. I thought our backs hit holes. Jaiden ran hard. Dreylan ran hard, and I thought (quarterback) Trey Garnto did a good job of just managing the offense.”

The Tigers, a 17-point underdog according to Georgia High School Football Daily, controlled the ball all night, running 73 plays to just 29 for Washington-Wilkes. Meanwhile, Commerce's defense held Washington-Wilkes’ talented offense — led by star quarterback Dalen Cobb — to 246 yards and just four first downs. Cobb entered the game with nearly 1,000 yards rushing and passing each, while Washington-Wilkes came into the contest averaging 39 points a game. 

“We knew that we had to keep their quarterback off the field, and their other weapons,” Hollars said. “They’re a great team. They’re well-coached. That kid (Cobb) has kept me up all week. I didn’t sleep.”

Commerce set the tone early with first-quarter touchdown drives of 7 and 11 plays that covered 75 and 69 yards, respectively. Daniels found the end zone on both scoring marches, with a 16-yard touchdown run at the 7:53 mark and then crashing in for a 3-yard score with 42 seconds left in the period. The Tigers led 14-6 after a quarter.

A late first-half drive from Commerce positioned Ivy Tolbert for a 28-yard field goal try which she knocked through with five seconds remaining in the first half, lifting the Tigers to a 17-14 halftime lead.

Commerce ran for 249 yards in the first half alone with both Daniels and Martin topping the 100-yard mark by halftime. Daniels had 132 yards through the first two quarters while Martin had 104 yards.

Daniels kept that going in the second half, scoring on a 3-yard run on the Tigers’ second possession of the third quarter. Commerce then recovered a fumble on the final play of the period and drove eight plays to open the fourth quarter, ending with Daniels’ 9-yard touchdown to put the Tigers up 31-14.

Cobb hit Quinzaibian Jackson for a 77-yard touchdown pass to cut Commerce’s lead to 11 with 6:43 left in the game, but the Tigers forced a fourth-down stop with 3:54 remaining, essentially sealing the win.

“Our kids did a good job of bending but not breaking,” Hollars said of the defensive effort. “Our defense has really been consistent all year. Really kind of had a mindset all year of bend-but-don’t break, and they’ve made a lot of big plays this year, and tonight they did it again.”

Commerce drove inside Washington-Wilkes’ 10-yard line in the final moments, but elected to take a knee with 1:10 left to salt away its biggest win of the year.

Hollars said his squad played “team football” in the victory."

“That’s what Commerce has been built on — complementary football,” he said. “Good run game. Solid, hard-nosed defense. Good kicking game … Finally, tonight we did (all) that. Like I said, we’ve scratched the surface a few times, but tonight we finally did it and couldn’t have picked a better time.”

After losing several pieces off of last year’s region-title winning team, Commerce now finds itself playing for the region crown again in its first year under Hollars.

“I’m just proud of the way they’ve conducted themselves,” said Hollars, whose team has won five of its last six games. “Again, first year, you’ve got to build relationships. We were 1-2, and I think they were hearing some negative voices, and we told them ‘Just stay the course. No one is coming to rescue us. We’ve got to do it ourselves … You’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to stick together.' And this group has done that.”

NOTES

•Commerce offensive linemen Lambdin Hardy, Mason Gaddis, Hampton Hutto, Joey Duncan and Brayton Purcell, along with tight ends Colton Hill and Corey Suber, paved the way up front for the Tigers’ near 400-yard rushing night.

•Place kicker Ivy Tolbert enjoyed a perfect night. In addition to her 28-yard field goal just before halftime, the sophomore was 4-of-4 on PATs.

•With his 229-yard effort, Jaiden Daniels now has 1,270 rushing yards on the season. 

•The night was an unusual one as two officials had to be carted off the field due to injuries. 

Commerce 31, No. 8 Washington-Wilkes 20

WWHS 6 8 0 6 — 20

CHS 14 3 7 7 — 31 

CHS — Daniels 16-yard run (Tolbert kick), 7:53, first quarter, 7-0

WWHS — Cobb 49-yard pass to Grant (2-point try failed), 6:55, first quarter, 7-6

CHS — Daniels 3-yard run (Tolbert kick), 0:42, first quarter, 14-6

WWHS — Grant 32-yard run (Cobb 2-point conversion), 10:16, second quarter, 14-14

CHS — Tolbert 28-yard field goal, 0:05, second quarter, 17-14

CHS — Daniels 3-yard run (Tolbert kick), 0:12, third quarter, 24-14

CHS — Daniels 9-yard run (Tolbert kick), 7:15, fourth quarter, 31-14

WWHS — Quinzaibian Jackson 77-yard reception from Cobb (2-point try failed), 6:43, fourth quarter, 31-20

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