ADAMSVILLE — New Gardendale football coach Matt Plunkett had a defense to be proud of in his head coaching debut Friday night, and he was — telling the “D” to stand up and take a bow after the game.
The offense? Not so much, but it was good enough for a win as the Rockets beat Minor 14-7 on the road in the season opener.
Gardendale had huge problems hanging on to the ball, with four lost fumbles and an interception in the first half alone. But they more than made up for the gifts to the Tenacious Tigers by smothering them at almost every opportunity.
“Ball security is something we had an issue with last spring, but we fixed it and it never popped up again, until tonight,” Plunkett said. “We didn’t put the ball on the ground one time in fall camp, and I didn't bring it up again, and then it hit us tonight. I think we’re going to mark it up to a lack of focus, and get after it this next week.”
Three of the Rockets’ first four possessions ended in turnovers, two of them on the first play of the drive. But on the last — a fumble by Juan Jackson on the Minor 16, just after Tanner Clayton came up with an interception for Gardendale — the Tigers were pinned back by their own penalties. And on fourth down and 15, the long snap to punter Ryan England went over his head. Keyneen Fikes picked up the loose ball and ran in for the touchdown with 2:46 left in the first quarter.
Minor answered quickly. Three plays into the next drive, Maurice Smitherman on a sweep, and somehow threaded the needle through an 18-inch-wide space between a defender and the sideline. He then dashed 75 yards for the Tigers’ only touchdown — in fact, it was their only big play of the game.