Chaye McElroy ran for four touchdowns and Eric Goodnight had his first 100-yard passing game of the season as Giles County held off Class 5A Franklin County, 36-18, at Sam Davis Park last Friday.
After not physically taking the field in Week 3 due to a COVID-19 no contest from Grundy County, the Bobcats (4-0) produced their most balanced offensive outing of the season, rushing for 174 yards and throwing for 154 yards.
The balance was a welcome sight for the Bobcats, who had struggled to find consistency in the passing game through their first two games of the season.
But on their second possession of the night, the Bobcats tallied their first aerial score of the season, when Goodnight found senior Amarion Sizemore on a 60-yard bomb that put the home team ahead, 7-0.
Goodnight completed 7-of-10 passes on the night for 135 of the team’s 154 yards, while rotating quarterback Kamauri Turner completed 1-of-2 attempts on the evening.
Sizemore was the main beneficiary, hauling in a team-high three catches for 120 yards.
“I was excited to see our passing game finally start to come along,” Bobcats head coach David O’Connor said. “We have tried to find that rhythm and get that consistency going, but it just wasn’t there yet. I thought (Goodnight) showed improved composure back there and made some really good throws. We still have some work to do, but I am glad we took some steps forward tonight.”
McElroy, meanwhile, posted his second-straight 100-plus yard night on the ground, rushing 26 times for 125 yards and four scores — three of which came in the first half.
Junior Bryson Gordon had a strong all-around performance at the fullback position, opening space for McElroy on the ground, while carrying three times for 10 yards himself. Gordon nearly notched his second career touchdown in the second quarter, taking a screen pass 19 yards down near the Franklin County endzone.
And, despite an early first-half threat from the visitors, Giles County never trailed in the contest.
After Giles County opened the scoring late in the first quarter, Franklin County responded in just two plays, capping their 80-yard drive with a 74-yard touchdown from junior rusher NaShawn Holman. The extra point sailed wide, however, as Giles County clung to a 7-6 lead.
Giles County scored on their ensuing possession, marching 47 yards in just over three minutes, capped by McElroy’s first score of the night — a six-yard dive to paydirt.
Franklin County returned the favor with another short drive, this time striking in just three plays, the final 20 of which came on a run from junior rusher Manny Scott. A second botched extra-point attempt left the Bobcats ahead, 14-12.
McElroy went in for two more first-half scores, giving the Bobcats a 27-12 lead at the break.
The second half began with the visitors marching nine plays in just under six minutes, but a 39-yard field goal attempt sailed wide — the third missed kick of the night for Franklin County.
Franklin County trimmed the Bobcat lead to 27-18 with a third-quarter score, but that would be as close as the contest ever got, with the Bobcats tacking on McElroy’s fourth touchdown and a late safety for the win.
“All around, we played pretty well at times tonight,” O’Connor said. “We made our share of mistakes, there’s no doubt. We had some defensive miscues and some penalties that must be cleaned up. But we did a lot of things well. For not having a game last Friday, I was proud of the way we carried our effort over into this week and kept the momentum rolling.”
Defensively, Giles County was led by seniors Jason Rose and Alden Staggs, who accounted for nine and six tackles each. Staggs had the lone sack of the night for the Bobcats.
Alongside Rose, junior linebacker Reed Owens had two tackles for loss to lead the Bobcat defense.
The Bobcats played the contest without starting defensive tackle Korey Pounall, which O’Connor said accounted for some of the early defensive woes.
Holman led the Rebels (0-3) on the ground and through the air, with the talented wide out rushing and receiving for over 100 yards each.
“Not having (Pounall) out there tonight was a major adjustment for us,” O’Connor said. “We eventually found our groove and were able to make some plays, but Franklin County has a really talented offense. They made us pay early, and I was proud of the way we made adjustments — especially in the second half.”
The win was a fourth straight for the Bobcats, who improved to 4-0 for the first since 2012. Three of Giles County’s four wins this season have come versus Class 5A competition.
The victory was the second for the Bobcats in three tries versus the Rebels, with the teams splitting a home-and-home series in 2017-2018.
“Franklin County is a lot better than their record would indicate,” O’Connor said. “They play very hard. They are fast, physical and run some really good stuff offensively. It was a fun ballgame here at The Brickyard against a really talented team.”
The Bobcats return to region play this Friday when they host Community. The matchup will mark the first-ever meeting between the two squads. The Vikings (2-1) blanked Perry County, 46-0, in their contest last Friday.
“Community is a good ballclub with two wins already under their belt,” O’Connor said. “They will be ready to play, and anytime you add a region ballgame into the equation, the stakes get much higher. We need a really good crowd this Friday at The Brickyard to cheer our guys on.”
The Bobcats will also celebrate Homecoming this Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Sam Davis Park.