With only three days of full-pads practices under his team’s belt, Coahulla Creek head coach Jared Hamlin didn’t really know what to expect when the Colts took the field on Tuesday night against Notre Dame in a preseason scrimmage.
But as his team approaches its first year against varsity competition, Hamlin had a big smile after his team took a 14-7 win over the Chattanooga private school at Coahulla Creek.
“You could tell that they have grown up,” said Hamlin, who will lead his team into Class 3A competition this season after playing a junior varsity schedule last year. “They got a chance and made plays when we needed them. They faced some adversity tonight and they got stronger and will get better as we keep on going.”
Tight end Jordan Tant hauled in an 11-yard scoring pass from Blaine Williams as the Colts took advantage of a short field after an interception on their second possession of the night, and Levi Wilson scooped up an Irish fumble and returned it 61 yards for a score to lead Coahulla Creek.
Both scores came in the first quarter, and Coahulla Creek’s defense did enough down the stretch to make the early lead stand up. With nose guard Cordarius Tarver proving to be a beast in the middle, the Colts defense forced a late turnover to seal the victory for the Colts.
“After three days of real practice, we still have a long way to go fundamentally,” Hamlin said. “We have to continue to get better and work a little harder on the little things and keep our intensity. That might have been the part I liked the most was that we might have made a few mental mistakes here and there, but they played hard all night with a lot of intensity.”
As is typical in preseason football scrimmages, both team’s defenses looked sharper than the opposing offense.
Notre Dame was also hurt when starting quarterback Alex Darris was hit as he threw his first pass and left the game with a rotator cuff injury. Coach Charles Fant held Darris out of the rest of the practice, saying afterward he didn’t think it was a serious injury, but that he didn’t want to risk his starter.
Darris’ pass was intercepted by Erick Dominguez and returned to the Irish 23. Five plays later, Williams found Tant, who rumbled into the end zone. On Notre Dame’s last possession of the first quarter, Tarver caused a fumble at the Colts 39, and Wilson was there to pick the ball up and went the distance for the 14-0 lead.
“You could really feel the competition and the intensity tonight,” Wilson said. “The speed of the game was much faster, but I think that we are adapting to that.”
Tant said the win was a cause for celebration, but also gave his team a good idea of how much work is still left to be done.
“As a team we did pretty good, but we need to execute better, and I think you will see that when we get back on the practice field,” he said. “We aren’t perfect yet, but it was a good early test and we are striving for perfect.”
Notre Dame’s lone score came late in the fourth quarter as Coahulla Creek was making late substitutions and had just 10 men on the field. Running back Josh Russell took advantage of the confusion and broke off a 70-yard scoring run to cut the Coahulla Creek lead in half.
The Irish had a chance to tie the game after forcing a fumble on the Colts’ next possession, but three plays later the Colts recovered a fumble and were able to ice the game.
“Defense is going to be a strong suit for us, and it is always a step ahead of your offense right now,” Hamlin said. “We got some good pressure up the middle, and we are where we need to be right now, but we need more.
“Offensively, we made some plays here and there, but we never really put together a drive. We have to convert and be able to move the ball with consistency, and that is the biggest thing we need to work on right now.”
Williams finished the night 6 of 11 passing for 86 yards and an interception. On the ground, the Colts had less than 100 yards rushing.
Coahulla Creek opens the regular season Aug. 31 at Murray County.