A big statement was made at Chris Hunter Stadium on Friday night as to which team is taking charge in Region 6-A/A action, and the Darlington Tigers were the voice behind it.
Darlington shut out visiting Bowdon 31-0 to maintain its perfect record and clinch the subregion’s first place in the process.
“It’s huge,” Darlington head coach Tommy Atha said. “This is a big win for us. It gives us an opportunity to play for a region championship. We’ve got unfinished business. We’ve got a big game next week. We’ve got an opportunity to go into the play-in game undefeated. That’s big.”
Along with a 21-20 Christian Heritage win over North Cobb Christian on Friday, the Tigers will now have a chance to play for the Region 6-A championship in two weeks against either Fellowship Christian or Whitefield Academy — the two top teams in Region 6-A/B.
Once again, Kolin Rogers did most of the scoring for the fourth-ranked Tigers on Friday nigh, scoring three touchdowns on the night. He led the Tigers’ running game with 120 yards on the ground, bringing him to 1,023 yards and 20 touchdowns on the season.
“You keep thinking in one game he might not be as effective, but he just runs so hard,” Atha said. “He understands where we want him to fit. When you can run the ball effectively like that and have multiple kids that can catch the football — we’re difficult to defend when we’re executing.”
The senior running back got the Tigers (8-0, 5-0 6-A/A) on the scoreboard early, capping a seven-play drive with a 1-yard score. Darlington quarterback Griffin Brewster helped set up the score with back-to-back passes to Patrick Shelley and Trystin Wright.
Another score from Rogers, this time from 12 yards out, and a 47-yard field goal by Brinson Sumner as time expired gave the Tigers a 17-0 lead at halftime.
“What can I say about these kids?” Atha said. “There’s so many of them. You can’t name all of them. We’ve got kids that are playing at a high level that have really improved.”
The Tigers showed off in all facets of the game as they handed the Red Devils their second straight loss.
Darlington’s defense is one of the stingiest in Class A, holding its opponents to 7.6 points per game so far this season. The Tigers held Bowdon (6-2, 3-2) to 213 yards of offense, while Darlington racked up 321 yards.
Running back Gage Stephens, one of sixth-ranked Bowdon’s most potent weapons, had 1,029 rushing yards on the season entering Friday’s contest with an average 147 yards per game. The Darlington defense shut him down as the sophomore only rushed for 40 yards.
“That’s a kid that can put his foot in the ground and go for a touchdown on any play,” Atha said. “You hold your breath. We did a great job up front and controlled the line of scrimmage. In the end, that was probably the difference.”
On special teams, Tate Ratledge flew over the line to hurry Bowdon kicker Charlie Bell when he was attempting a 25-yard field goal, causing Bell to kick low under the crossbar. Ratledge also had a 42-yard punt in the fourth quarter that pinned Bowdon down to their own 4-yard line.
Brewster finished 10-of-12 passing for 147 yards, throwing his lone touchdown pass to Tyler Watkins on a 62-yard reception with six minutes left in the game to set the final.
“There’s no perfect games,” Atha said. “There’s some things we’ve got to clean up. We had some penalties that hurt us, but we’re executing on both sides of the ball. I think we’re really hitting on all cylinders in all three phases of the game.”
The Tigers will face North Cobb Christian on the road next Friday.