GARDENDALE — If Tabernacle Christian did nothing else in their first eight-man football game of the 2012 season, they proved that they could have a good game without Goodgame.
Fred Goodgame, the Torches' all-everything player for the last two seasons, watched from behind the sideline fence as his old team ran away with the contest in the first half. The effort put them on their way to a 44-20 victory over Christian Football Association rival Tuscaloosa Christian at Moncrief Park Friday night.
And instead of one man being the big playmaker, coach Wayne Dabbs' squad spread the wealth around. Senior Judd Sims and sophomore Caleb Lindsey shared the quarterbacking duties, with Tristan Castro, Joe Zassoda, Will Miller, Matt James and Colin Sutton all taking part in scoring plays.
The Torches appeared as if they would run away with the game in the first half. They marched downfield quickly on their opening drive, finishing it off with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Sims to Castro just over four minutes into the game.
The Warriors answered by running back the subsequent kickoff for a touchdown, with Freedom Woods dashing 71 yards down the Tabernacle sideline for the score. That proved to be Tuscaloosa's only touchdown of the first half.
But the Torches responded in kind, as Castro did almost exactly the same thing – 70 yards down his own sideline for the score, for the third touchdown in the span of 26 seconds on the game clock.
After holding the Warriors to a three-and-out, Castro did most of the work on the next drive, including a 61-yard run that was cut short by defensive back Andrew Mason's tackle at the 11. After a false-start penalty, Lindsey found Sutton in the corner of the end zone for the score.
Sims thwarted Tuscaloosa's next drive by intercepting a Jordan Potter pass at the Torch 28. Lindsey then connected with Castro for a 31-yard TD pass that opened the second quarter.
Castro broke open for a 44-yard touchdown run on the next drive, but that score was negated by a holding penalty. Instead, Tabernacle regained most of the lost yardage on a 28-yard Sims run, and climaxed the drive with a 4-yard scoring charge up the middle by James with 8:27 left in the half.
After another Warrior three-and-out, Sims suffered the same fate as Castro – a big touchdown run came all the way back on a holding flag.
With a comfortable lead at halftime, Dabbs tried to give everyone a chance to get some playing time, but the offense bogged down. The Torches did stop a threat by Tuscaloosa when Calloway Newman fumbled the ball away, and James recovered for Tabernacle. The Warriors fumbled the ball four times in the third quarter alone, but turned it over only once.
Dabbs was content to keep the ball on the ground and run off clock to protect the big lead in the third quarter, but opened up the offense in the fourth to give the passing game some time. It worked, as Lindsey completed three of four attempts on the drive that opened the period, finishing with his third touchdown pass of the night. That pass to Sutton – his second TD catch – came on a 19-yard toss with 7:45 left in the game.
Tuscaloosa did make things interesting late, scoring on the first play of the following drive when Potter threw to Newman, who then broke through two missed tackles in the middle of the field and scored on a 50-yard play.
Potter then threw a touchdown pass to Boyd Banks for 19 yards with 4:21 left, but it was too little, too late.
Tabernacle gained 230 yards total offense in the first half, while holding the Warriors to just 16 yards – 13 passing and 3 rushing.
Lindsey was 7-for-10 passing for the night with 115 yards and three touchdowns, plus a two-point conversion pass. Sims completed his only pass from scrimmage for a touchdown, plus two conversion passes.
Castro led the rushing stats with 89 yards on 14 carries, while Sims ran 82 yards on 11 carries.
Overall, Tabernacle rushed for 210 yards and threw for 119 (8-for-12, no interceptions), for 329 total yards. Tuscaloosa was held to –22 yards rushing, thanks in part to three big losses in the third quarter, while passing for 164 yards for 142 in total offense.
The Torches go on the road next Thursday evening to face Flint Hill Christian, in a game to be played at Bessemer Academy.