Tigers gain inside track on home playoff game by knocking off DeKalb County
SMITHVILLE – Gabe Borders is quickly becoming a problem for opponents on Macon County’s schedule, and Region 4-4A foe DeKalb County became his latest witness in a span of four plays Thursday evening.
The sophomore pulled in an interception early in the fourth quarter to preserve a one-point lead, then added to it with a sideline-to-sideline trek on a 55-yard screen pass for a touchdown three plays later as the visiting Tigers grabbed a 21-13 victory in their region opener.
“(The play) was meant for the right (side),” Borders said about the screen pass. “I saw everybody (heading right) and I didn’t have (defenders) on the left side, so I looked to the left and get as much as I could.”
Borders visited the end zone twice, adding a 50-yard touchdown run on a sweep in the third quarter as the Tigers took the lead for good. He finished with 205 total yards (149 rushing, 56 receiving) in the contest.
“(Borders) is a phenomenal player for us for sure,” Macon County head coach Kyle Shoulders said. “But tonight was really a team effort.”
DeKalb County (2-1 overall, 0-1 Region 4-4A) lost starting quarterback Briz Trapp late in the third quarter to a shoulder injury. Trapp had thrown two touchdown passes – one each to Malachi Trapp and one to Josh May that had given the Tigers a 13-7 lead midway through the third quarter. However, a missed extra point kept the door open for Macon County to retake the lead.
Sophomore Jordan Parker entered the game in Briz Trapp’s place. Borders intercepted a Parker pass near the sideline to set up the decisive score.
“He’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Trapp said of Parker. “If he throws that (pass) three more feet (outside), that’s a big play for us. He can throw the football, but he’s going to have to grow up fast.”
Macon County set the tone early with its opening possession, a 19-play, 75-yard drive that consumed 10:46 of clock in the first quarter.
“That first drive was important,” Shoulders said. “It was important for us to stay in possession of the football to be able to eat up the majority of the first quarter. We’ve got a lot of guys playing both sides, so to be able to slow the pace of the game is important.”
After three successful fourth-down conversions on that initial series, the Tigers cashed in with a 1-yard plunge from quarterback Kyle Shockley with 1:14 left in the opening period. Shockley added 46 rushing yards to his 82 (on 7-of-15 attempts) through the air.
Macon County held the ball for 30:40, largely in part due to that opening drive.
“We know that everyone’s going to key on (Borders),” Shoulders said. “So if you’ll look back at some of those fourth downs, you’ll notice some other guys (getting the ball). It’s because we have just as much confidence in our other guys as we do (Borders).”
Through three games, Borders has 327 rushing yards and three touchdowns in addition to 228 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He also has a kickoff return for a score.
Colby Barnes rushed for 81 yards on 17 carries to lead DeKalb County’s offense.
Macon County is 3-0 for the third consecutive season and will visit Trousdale County next week, looking to avenge a 34-7 loss at home to the Yellow Jackets last season.
“We’re a good team,” Borders said. “A lot of people think we’re small and inexperienced, but we fight hard and we want people to know we’re good.”
Given how the two teams have played close games over the past four years, Thursday night’s clash was another chapter in the closeness of the rivalry as of late. The largest margin of victory in the past five games in the series was DeKalb County’s 13-point victory in 2019. The winner of this game has also earned at least a top-two finish in the region each of the past five years.
“We called on a lot of guys that probably hadn’t had a handful of plays under the lights on Friday nights,” Shoulders said. “I’m extremely proud of how we prepared them through the preseason, how they’ve stayed locked in through the last couple of weeks and how they answered the call tonight.”