Kolin Rogers scored the Darlington football team’s first touchdown of the night and kept on driving his team downfield in the Tigers’ season opener.
The senior running back had 114 yards on 29 carries Friday night to lead his team to a 17-7 win over visiting Pepperell in both teams’ season opener at Chris Hunter Stadium.
Rogers was in on most of the plays for Darlington, especially in the second half, during which the Tigers attempted only three passes.
“He’s a throwback,” Darlington head coach Tommy Atha said. “He never complains. He runs into people, runs through them and gets back up and does it again. He’s the kind of kid you love to coach.”
Having Rogers control the ground game allowed Griffin Brewster — back for his senior season after missing most of last year with an injury — and Patrick Shelley to attack the Dragons through the air.
The duo combined to go 9-of-10 for 109 yards and a touchdown. Atha said the team’s offensive line, which includes Georgia commit Tate Ratledge and Cade Brock, added to the success of the offense.
“We’re very proud of our offensive line,” Atha said. “We feel like we have got a chance to be really good up front, and when you add a great back like him (Rogers) and the ability to throw the football, we feel like we’re working on something special.”
After Roger’s 2-yard touchdown run to get the Tigers out front 7-0 in the first quarter, the Dragons responded quickly on the next drive with an 89-yard touchdown pass from Gage Moses to Tra Robinson to tie the game up with 5:33 left in the first quarter.
“I was proud of our guys,” Pepperell head coach Rick Hurst said. “We did some good things, and there’s a lot to build on. We’re not going to put all our eggs in this basket. We want to win this one as bad as any of them, but let’s get better from Game 1 to Game 2, Game 2 to Game 3 and Game 3 to Game 4, and Game 4 is when they count.”
Darlington (1-0) took the lead for good with five seconds left in the first half when Shelley threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Karson Swiger to put the Tigers ahead of Pepperell 14-7.
Trystin Wright set up the score when he returned a punt 37 yards down to the Pepperell 25-yard line, and the Tigers were able to score on the next play. Wright also had four catches on the night for 68 yards.
“I’m so proud of that young man,” Atha said. “That young man has bought into what we’re doing. He’s worked in the weight room. He really, really took a giant step forward tonight, and we needed that. He just made our whole football team better tonight.”
A 40-yard field goal from Brinson Sumner in the third quarter rounded out the scoring for Darlington.
The Tigers were able to keep the Pepperell duo of Moses and receiver Payton Rhoades from connecting for most of the game. Rhoades finished with five catches for 35 yards, and Moses was 8-of-19 for 152 yards before having the leave the game in the third quarter.
“They did a very good job of defending the field,” Hurst said about the Darlington defense. “We got some good things going and then we’d shoot ourselves in the foot with a penalty or a turnover. They did a really good job of keeping our quarterback from pulling it. That’s part of our game is to get him on the corner with a run-pass option, and we just couldn’t do it.”
Sophomore quarterback Shannen White came in for Moses in the third quarter and, according to Hurst, proved to be a vital part of the team.
“Shannen proved his worth,” Hurst said. “That’s the luxury of having two good quarterbacks. I thought he did some really good things when coming into a situation like that. He made a couple of mistakes, but you expect that from a guy that doesn’t get a whole lot of snaps in practice.”
Darlington will welcome Coosa to Chris Hunter Stadium next Friday. Pepperell (0-1) will host Pickens at Dragon Stadium on Sept. 6 following a bye week.