Tifton Gazette


January 18, 2014

Reid-coached Georgia defeats Florida in War of the Border

TIFTON — If Friday’s Georgia-Florida War of the Border All-Star football game was a last chance for players to make an impression on college recruiters, Thomasville’s Mario Cherry certainly took advantage.

Cherry rushed for 165 yards on 16 carries, caught a pass for 37 yards and returned a free kick 39 yards as Georgia defeated Florida 17-7 at Tom White Field at Mack Tharpe Stadium.

And the Georgia defense did not allow a touchdown, although Florida contributed to its own demise by fumbling the ball away three times and five times committing penalties that gave the Georgia team first downs.

Georgia, led Defensive Player of the Game O’Shay Williams of Colquitt County, forced eight punts and when Florida did find some offense, the fumbles snuffed it.

The only Florida touchdown came on a 45-yard punt return by Godby High’s Javon O’Neal with 7:21 left in the second quarter. Xane Bennett, also of Godby, converted the extra point kick to give Florida a 7-0 lead.

But the swarming Georgia defense and two costly second-half fumbles ensured those would be all the points Florida would manage.

The game turned in a three-minute span of the third quarter.

A 41-yard run by Cherry gave Georgia a first-and-goal at the Florida 4, but three plays later Daniel Provence of Bainbridge was forced to kick a 22-yard field goal with 7:09 left for Georgia’s first points.

Then on the kickoff, Deonshay Wells of Madison County High unwisely decided to run the ball out of the end zone and was tackled for a safety, cutting the Florida lead to 7-5.

Cherry then went back to work, taking the free kick back 39 yards. Two plays later, Tift County quarterback Ryan Wedgeworth bolted 24 yards on the read option to the Florida 16 and he scored from there on the next play.

The extra point failed, but Georgia had the lead at 11-7 with 4:10 left in the quarter.

Florida then tried to retrieve the momentum it has lost, marching from its own 16 to a first down at the Georgia 17.

But Florida fumbled and Georgia recovered with 1:56 left in the quarter.

Florida’s problems continued on its next possession, when a snap over the punter’s head gave Georgia possession on the Florida 11.

On the first play, Jonathan Thomas of Americus-Sumter County took it in from there on a reverse and Georgia’s lead was 17-7 with 14:15 left in the game.

Florida had another chance to make a game of it driving to the Georgia 4, only to fumble the ball away one last time with 4:27 left.

Florida never got the ball back.

“I thought they were two evenly matched teams,” said Georgia head coach John Reid of Tift County. “We just got some turnovers. That’s often the difference in a game like this.

“And we made some adjustments at halftime.”

It was no surprise the Cherry was Georgia’s Offensive Player of the Game.

“He’s something else,” Reid said. “He got some good blocking, but a lot of it he made on his own. That kid can play football.”

Georgia only threw for 50 yards, but ran the ball well, especially in the second half. Wedgeworth added 82 yards on 12 carries.

Georgia had to overcome three turnovers of its own, but its defense – which included Williams, tackle Michael Parrish, linebacker Brandon Key and defensive backs Tim Sanders and Quan Patillo of Colquitt County – made sure they didn’t hurt.

Key and Westover High’s Shannon Saunders were the Georgia captains.

Reid and six of his Tift County assistants coached the Georgia team along with Cedric Stegall of Americus-Sumter County and Danny Blaylock of Colquitt County.

The team was made up of players from Tift County, Colquitt County Bainbridge, Thomasville, Americus-Sumter County, Trinity Christian, Cairo, Mitchell County, Monroe, Pelham, Early County, Worth County, Thomas County Central, Miller County and Westover high schools.

O’Neal, who also caught five passes for 79 yards in addition to his touchdown-producing punt return, was Florida’s Offensive Player of the Game. Strong safety Andrew Brown of Wakulla High School was the Defensive Player of the Game.

Wells was Florida’s leading rusher with 93 yards on 20 carries. Quarterback Daniel Wentworth of Taylor County High School completed 11-of-18 passes for 126 yards.

Madison County head coach Mike Coe led the Florida team. His players represented Wakulla, East Gadsden, Jefferson County, Robert F. Munroe, Rickards, Florida high, FAMU, Taylor County, Blountstown, Leon, Chiles, North Florida Christian, Aucilla Christian, Liberty County, Godby, Lincoln and Madison County high schools.

Friday’s game was the second of three War of the Border all-star games for senior players from south Georgia and north Florida.

The first game was played at Cleveland Field at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium in Valdosta on Jan. 10. The other will be played on Saturday, Feb. 15, at Charlton County High School in Folkston.

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