By Rick Lanier
For the Opelika Observer
Following a 1-1 start to the season, Beauregard’s coaching staff had some questions to be answered as the Hornets made their first road trip of the season Friday, traveling to Talladega to take on the Tigers in the opener of 5A Region 4 play.
The most pressing question for first-year Beauregard head coach Justin Jones would be how his team responded to being away from the hornet nest, in hostile territory? In the end, the main question would be answered, because despite a rash of penalties and miscues, the Hornets managed to play well enough to outlast the Tigers 37-20.
During his post-game interview, Jones expressed relief by the victory.
“The struggle was real with the penalties (12 total),” he said. “[But] when we had a chance to finish it, we finished it, and that’s the important thing for our team.”
The night started well for the Hornets as they received the opening kick-off and began moving the ball at-will against Talladega. Then, a series of three false start penalties put the Hornets behind the chains, and when QB Trent Moulton’s fourth-and-13 pass fluttered to the ground, the promising drive had stalled.
Talladega mounted an impressive first drive as well, complimented by a completed pass on third and long to extend the drive, and then an 18-yard run for a touchdown to take an early 6-0 lead (PAT was blocked).
Beauregard senior receiver CJ Reese promptly put the Hornet’s back in business returning the ensuing kickoff to the Talladega 20. The next play was a perfectly executed receiver reverse for an apparent touchdown, but another Hornet penalty took the points off the board. Two consecutive false start penalties followed, and the Hornets soon wasted the scoring opportunity by turning the ball over on downs.
Despite surrendering a score early, the Hornet defense regrouped and began to play with a purpose. Led by linebacker Jacob Clark, the defense pushed Talladega back to their own 12-yard line on the next drive and forced the Tigers to punt the ball away.
Back and forth, each team traded possessions. That was until Clark sacked the Tiger quarterback twice in one drive to force another Talladega punt from deep in its own territory. A bad snap out of the back of the end-zone resulted in a Hornet safety, making the score 6-2 in favor Talladega.
Beauregard’s receiver Chris Gamble took the ensuing Tiger free-kick at his own 40-yard line, cut left and returned it to Talladega’s 35-yard line, setting the Hornets up with good field position again. Running back Qua Barnes scampered to the end zone on the next play — but another penalty took the points off the board. Two more penalties backed the Hornets up to the Tiger’s 30; but Moulton took a QB-keeper to the one-yard line two plays later. The progress was futile, however, as the Hornets fumbled on the doorstep to turn the ball back over to the Tigers with 2:19 to play in the first half.
Less than a minute later, on fourth-and-3 on their own 25 yard-line, the Tigers called for a fake punt which resulted in a 75-yard touchdown, extending the Talladega lead to 13-2.
With little time before the break, Beauregard returned the ensuing kickoff deep into Tiger territory again. This time, the Hornets put together two big running plays resulting in a Z.J. Grady touchdown. One successful two-point conversion later, and the Hornets had closed the gap and trailed by only three points at halftime.
The second half of actions featured similar momentum ebb-and-flows of first half.
After narrowly avoiding what could have been a disastrous kickoff fumble, however, the Hornets offense began to click. The Beauregard rushing attack began to dominate time of possession, and touchdown runs of 15 and 20 yards by Grady and Kyan Malloy, respectively, reflected the Hornet’s success against a tiring Tiger defense.
Well into the fourth quarter, with the score 23-13 Beauregard, the Tigers put together a long touchdown drive to close the gap to 23-20. On the ensuing kickoff, however, Malloy took it 75 yards to the house, and the game was pretty much in hand for the Hornets.
A stingy Hornet defense, coupled with another score by Barnes made the final score 37-20 in favor of Beauregard. The victory improved the Hornets record to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in region play.
The Hornets are back home this Friday, Sept. 10, as they take on the 3-1 (1-0) Bulldogs from Holtville at 7 p.m. CST. Beauregard High School is located at 7343 Alabama Highway 51, in Opelika.