The playoff bound Selma High School Saints football team marched on toward the AHSAA Class 5-A playoffs with a 32-12 road victory over Central High School of Tuscaloosa Thursday night.
The Saints used a balanced attack, rushing and passing to keep the Falcons from keying on standout receivers Dion Nelson and JeVonte Stubbs.
The Selma defense complemented its offense by shutting out the Falcons in the second half.
“Defensively we played an excellent game. I told the defense at halftime that the game is on us and if we don’t allow a touchdown in the second half, we would win the ballgame, and that’s exactly what we did,” said Head Coach Will Gandy.
The Saints played in Central’s backfield all night, registering 11 tackles for a loss. Juniors Kemari Eaton and Ken McMillian continue to impress in their first year as starters. Linebackers Tyler Davis, Dakari Nelson, and Dylan Walker had big nights disrupting the Falcon offense, controlling the one-two punch of Markelious Furr and Arnsey Richardson, who have powered their attack all season. Walker blocked a PAT for the second consecutive week. Senior cornerback Jimmie Brown teamed with Stubbs to shut down star receiver Michael Richardson in the second half.
The defense set the tone on the first possession of the game. Junior Christon Curtis returned the opening kickoff to the Selma 24. On first and goal from the Saints 10, Stubbs intercepted a pass off the hands of Richardson at the 3-yard line, weaved through traffic and returned it 91 yards to the Falcon 6. A block in the back penalty moved the offense back to its own 10-yard line.
Trent Waller continued to surge forward as another viable threat in the Saints’ offense. Waller sandwiched 25 yards on three carries around a short pass that Stubbs turned into a 52-yard gain to the Falcon 19 yard-line. From there, Waller set the Saints up inside the 5.
Freshman Sharod Martin scored from 1 yard out and Dion Nelson added the 2-point conversion on a power play putting the visitors up 8-0 at 7:30 of the opening period.
Selma’ defense faced adversity again as Curtis, the backup quarterback, returned the next kick-off into Saint territory where a late hit put Central at the Selma 35. After an initial first down, the Saints forced a turnover on downs as a Falcon pass fell incomplete in the endzone on fourth down.
The Saints diverse offense took center stage as Rodrick Ward completed a 17-yard pass over the middle to Dakari Nelson at midfield, followed by Dion Nelson hitting Ward with a 26-yard pass to the Falcon 24.
On third and goal from the six, Ward found Stubbs on a corner route for a touchdown to cap the drive. Nelson powered in another two-point conversion for a 16-0 score.
An errant kick-off and fumble recovery by highly recruited defensive tackle Edward Smith IV, produced consecutive short field possessions that led to two Falcon scores. Quarterback Peyton Batchelor connected with Richardson on a 20-yard touchdown pass and Furr scored on a two-yard run with :17 remaining to bring the score to 16-12 at the half.
Selma took the second half possession 59 yards in eight plays as Stubbs adjusted to an underthrown ball from Ward, made the catch, faked the defender, and outran him to paydirt. Dion Nelson raced around right end for a two-point conversion and a 24-12 lead. Waller, Martin and fellow freshman running back Jason Rogers pounded the inside running game and allowed Stubbs and Dakari Nelson to make plays in the passing game.
Leading 24-12, Coach Gandy rolled the dice early in the fourth quarter, going for a 4th and 2 play near midfield. Stubbs took a snap in the shotgun formation and gained four yards to keep the drive alive with under ten minutes remaining.
Dion Nelson was inserted at quarterback and behind the offensive line, pounded the Falcons into submission with 4 straight carries covering 46 yards. The last was a 13-yard keeper where he steam-rolled a defender near the 10-yard line and waltzed into the end zone. Stubbs sprinted around right end for the two-point conversion with the final score of the night.
“Offensively we sealed it by running the ball down hill like we practiced all week. It was a great look for both sides of the ball. I’m really proud of the guys as we move a step closer to an area championship,” Gandy said.
The Saints improved to 5-2 overall and are tied for first place in Class 5A Area 3 at 4-0. Selma continue their road odyssey with a trip to Buhl and an area game versus Sipsey Valley High School Friday Night.