For the 30th time in program history, the Commerce Tigers came out on top against the Banks County Leopards; however, the 42-13 final score wasn’t as easy as some would assume.
“I thought Banks County played extremely hard,” head coach Michael Brown said. “We had to earn everything that we got on offense.
“There wasn’t anything easy about that. I told coach (Josh) Shoemaker after the game that they’re very well-coached and a very good football team.”
The Tigers (1-0) haven’t dropped a season opener since 2013.
“We did some good things, we did some bad things,” Brown said about the team’s performance. “They’ll be a lot to come back Monday and work on. I can guarantee you that.”
A new-look Tigers’ offense totaled up 409 yards against the Leopards’ defense; 340 yards came via the ground game.
Easley Smith led the Tigers with 92 rushing yards on 17 carries and one touchdown. Dylan Deaton carried the ball 11 times for 80 yards and one score. Caleb Mason totaled 50 yards on four carries and two scores. Mason also caught one pass for 21 yards.
New Tigers’ quarterback Nate Ray collected 31 yards on the ground and went 2 of 4 through the air for 69 yards.
“I thought Nate played well for his first game starting at quarterback,” Brown said. “He was pretty accurate in his calls.
“He got us in the right play most of the night and executed it and I was pleased for his first performance. I thought the halfbacks ran the ball well, blocked well. Looked like the line of scrimmage did OK, but you know there were a lot of busts in there and a lot of blocks that were not executed the right way. There will be a lot to come back and work on. It’s never as good as you think it is but it’s never as bad.”
The Tigers’ defense also racked up three sacks, caused three fumbles, recovering one, and Jaylen Dorsey returned an interception for a touchdown.
“He’s right in there competing for a starting job,” Brown said of Dorsey. “We feel really good about him.
“He’s definitely in the rotation. He’s a guy that has continued to get better throughout the summer and he’s really pushing for a starting position right now. So, I was really pleased to see that.”
The Tigers wasted little time in finding the end zone in 2017, going eight plays on the first drive. It ended with a Smith 6-yard score and the Tigers held a 7-0 lead with 6:55 left in the first quarter.
Two possessions later, the Tigers capitalized on great field position, going 20 yards in four plays, ending with a Nick Patrick 1-yard touchdown run. The Tigers led 14-0 with 9:22 left in the first half.
On the next possession, Mason accounted for 59 of the 68 yards to the end zone including his 38-yard scamper that put the Tigers up 21-0 with 4:25 left in the first half.
Dorsey’s pick-six came with 52 seconds left in the first half. The Tigers led 28-0 at halftime.
Mason’s second touchdown run put the Tigers up 35-0 with 3:11 left in the third quarter.
After two Leopard touchdowns, the Tigers’ final touchdown drive included a 48-yard Ray-to-Kyre Ware completion. The drive ended with a Deaton 3-yard touchdown run and set the score at 42-13.