Blue Devils head coach Jeff Hunnicutt asked his seniors how they wanted to be remembered, faced with what was likely their last home game.
Senior running back Joseph Wallace heard that message loud and clear as he recorded five touchdowns and helped Model book its ticket to the Class AA Football State Playoffs in a 49-7 blowout of the Chattooga Indians on Tuesday in Shannon.
“I think the fact that we finally executed and a testament to the offensive line because they’ve been challenged the last three weeks,” Blue Devils head coach Jeff Hunnicutt said. “We’ve got to put Chattooga to bed. We’ve got to get started on Gordon Central first thing in the morning.”
The victory assures Model’s trip to the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
“It’s big for these seniors,” Hunnicutt said. “It’s a unique year in itself, but ... we cannot be satisfied to get to places I hope we want to go. We can’t be satisfied with a third-place finish. Granted, we are playing on Thanksgiving and that’s always a big goal of mine and our staff.”
The matchup featured two talented back in the senior Wallace and Chattooga junior running back Lashaun Lester. However, the night would belong to Wallace and the Blue Devils, as they hit the ground running, literally, and did not stop all night.
Wallace would carry the ball in from 6 yards on four separate occasions and once from 2 yards outside the goal line. In all, he recorded 35 carries for 241 yards.
“Joe’s a very unique guy. He’s a lunch-pail guy,” Hunnicutt said. “He comes to work the same day, the same way every day. Joe did do some good things tonight along with our little freshman (Riley) Chapman came in and had some explosions as well.”
Hunnicutt heaped the running game praise on the offensive line, which carved the holes for Wallace and Co. throughout the evening.
“I think a testament goes to that offensive line,” Hunnicutt said. “Joe reaps the benefits of that offensive line. At the end of the night, (it) says the same thing, and it’s zero rushes for zero yards across the board.”
Wallace echoed his coach’s sentiment.
“I can’t really take the props for it,” Wallace said. “It’s just the o-line completely controlled and dominated that line of scrimmage.”
Every single offensive yard Model managed against Chattooga came via the ground, totaling 335.
While Model’s offense clicked on all cylinders, it was about the exact opposite for Chattooga, which managed just 70 yards of total offense.
Lester led the way offensively for the Indians with 16 carries for 43 yards and the lone touchdown, a 2-yard rush for his 14th of 2020.
Senior quarterback Cash Allen’s night did not go according to plan, as he threw 8-for-13 for 43 yards.
Model’s stout defense was on full display Tuesday, forcing two fumbles and limiting Chattooga’s longest gain of the night to a 16-yard run by Lester.
“I ask our guys to read, react, run and I’ll do all the thinking on the sideline,” Hunnicutt said. “It’s a testament to these guys trusting in what we’re trying to do. It makes it fun when you start the way and finish that way.”
Lester’s TD run cut the Model edge to 21-7 with 75 seconds to play before halftime. However, the Blue Devils marched down the field on a 3-play, 62-yard drive capped off by Wallace’s fourth touchdown rush.
At 28-7 at the break, Model did not bother to glance in the rear-view mirror, controlling the second-half action. Chattooga ran 12 plays in the final 24 minutes, including just two in the third quarter due to a muffed kickoff return and a fumble on an offensive play.
For the Blue Devils (5-4, 3-2), they have now clinched a spot in the playoffs, but whether that be as the No. 3 or 4 seed has yet to be determined. A Model victory in the final game of the regular season against the Gordon Central Warriors (3-6, 2-3) will see the Blue Devils earn the third seed and Chattooga (3-7, 2-4) clinch the No. 4 spot in Region 7-AA, due to owning the head-to-head tiebreaker with Gordon Central.
A Model loss to Gordon Central would result in the Warriors leapfrogging the Blue Devils and taking the third seed as Model would settle for fourth in 7-AA.
“I hope we’re not just satisfied with 11 (games),” Hunnicutt said. “I hope we have some different goals in mind.”
Model has a very quick turnaround, as the Blue Devils conclude the 2020 regular season on Saturday against the Warriors of Gordon Central in Calhoun. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.