Senior quarterback TraDarius Ezell threw three touchdown passes and a pair of two-point conversions to lead the Notasulga Blue Devils to a hard-fought 37-33 victory over rival Reeltown in the season opener for both teams on Thursday, Aug. 24.
Coach Anthony Jones’ Blue Devils never trailed in the contest but didn’t put the game away until Ezell’s 17-yard touchdown pass to sophomore runningback Daryl Brown with 3:35 to play put the Blue Devils up 37-26 after Ezell connected with senior Walter Tatum for a two-point conversion.
Reeltown made the final score 37-33 when Makeyon Hughley tallied on an 8-yard run with only 1:27 left in the contest.
Ezell’s 6-yard TD pass to Keywun Rowels opened scoring for Notasulga with 37 seconds remaining in the opening quarter. Eric Whitlow’s kick for the extra point made it 7-0.
Cameron Faison’s 3-yard run cut the Notasulga lead to 7-6 as the conversion attempt failed with 8:26 remaining in the second quarter.
Ezell then found Rowles again for a touchdown, this time from 33 yards out. The score remained 13-7 after the extra point try failed. Faison quickly tied the game with a 73-yard kickoff return for the Rebels. The score remained 13-13 when the extra point effort was no good.
Senior all-purpose player Walter Tatum’s 2-yard run with 5:44 left in the second quarter made it 19-13. Tatum made it 21-13 Notasulga with a two-point conversion run.
Then sophomore Brown got in the act with a 40-yard touchdown scamper with 3:23 remaining before halftime. Ezell passed for a two-point conversion to give the Blue Devils a 29-13 lead.
But Reeltown wouldn’t go away as Eric Shaw scored on an 8-yard run on the last play of the first half to cut Notasulga’s lead to 29-20 as the extra point attempt was no good.
Scoring slowed down in the second half with the only scoring in the third quarter coming on a 16-yard run by Hughley for Reeltown. The extra point failed, leaving Notasulga’s lead at 29-26.
Notasulga sealed the win with the Ezell-to-Brown TD pass in the final four minutes and two-point conversion toss to Tatum to put the Blue Devils up 37-26 Hughley’s TD run for the Rebels cut the final score to 37-33.
Ezell completed 14 of 24 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed for 35 yards on only three carries.
“He did what he was supposed to do as a senior. He kept poised and gave us great leadership,” Jones said about the Blue Devils’ quarterback.
Brown led Blue Devil rushers with 69 yards on 11 attempts. Willie B. Ferguson picked up 32 yards on three carries while Walter Tatum contributed 12 yards and a touchdown on three rushes. Marc Battle picked up 10 yards on his lone carry.
Rowles was on the receiving end of four passes for 50 yards, two of which went for touchdowns. Tatum had four receptions for 31 yards, Battle two catches for 23 yards, Keldric Adams, one for 25 yards, Jimmy Pitts one for 18 yards and Fredrick Stinson, one for 17 yards.
Sophomore defensive end/linebacker Jaheim Greer was a terror on defense where he registered 13 tackles that included three sacks and three forced fumbles.
“He had a great season for us last year as a freshman when he was a starter,” Jones commented about the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Greer. “He is developing as a team leader and is at top speed in practices and games.”
Rodd Zeigler added 10 tackles with a sack.
Jones said the defense was hampered by cramps.
“They seemed to hit us all at one time and we had to play some younger players in the second half,” Jones pointed out.
“Guts, it took guts. I’ve got to say they (Reeltown and Coach Matt Johnson) did a heck of a job. They beat us up a little bit. I just told the guys that we needed to have a gut check,” said Notasulga’s Coach Jones.
Notasulga faces another big test this Friday (Sept. 1) when they visit Lanett.. The Panthers, Class 2A, defeated their arch-rivals the Valley Rams, Class 5A, 28-7.
“This team can be good, but we’ve got to fix some stuff,” Jones said of his Blue Devils. “It was very ugly. But, at the end were standing and we will move on to next week against Lanett.”
NHS note: Rowles was involved in an serious automobile accident Friday after school, but was only banged up and sore. He should be ready to play against Lanett.