CHULA — Tiftarea Academy head football coach Erik Soliday had a goal of a game environment in Thursday’s Blue-Gold scrimmage.

“We wanted to make it as much game-like, so that everything is not new,” he said. Fans were in the stands, music played, plays were announced. There was the football itself, two sides getting four downs to travel 10 years, with the ultimate goal being touchdowns.

He did not stop there.

“We practiced drinking water before the game,” Soliday joked, “we practiced drinking water at halftime, coin flip, everything.”

The 90-minute intrasquad encounter is a warm-up for their official scrimmage, which has them playing Southwest Georgia Academy Aug. 12 at the Panther Pit. The regular season begins a week later, Aug. 19, at Bulloch Academy.

Though the Panthers were assured winners by scrimmaging themselves, Soliday is using the resulting film to see what needs to be worked on for official games.

“I felt like the kids played pretty hard,” he said. “It was pretty clean, for the most part.” Soliday was a one-man officiating crew. He called no holds or downfield penalties. Each side did have a couple of false starts and there was one offsides. This was despite stunting by the defensive linemen.

Soliday said he additionally wanted to gauge their conditioning. While nearly everyone has been around all summer, practice did not officially begin until Aug. 1.

Tiftarea’s roster was divided into blue jerseys and white jerseys, plus one gold top for Hershel Moore. Cubbie Crosson and Eli Stevens formed the main backfield for the white uniforms, with John Robert Walker and Kam Brown doing the same for the blue side.

The units cast all of that aside in the final portion, however, joining up for a two-minute drill that ended with Crosson scoring on a push inside the 5.

Blue started red hot, Walker, flinging a 45-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Malone in the first two minutes. Minutes later, Lane Cole jumped a receiver’s route, picking off Crosson for a 75-yard score. No extra points were attempted after any scores, though Malone got in his snaps as kickoff man and punter for both blue and white.

The 12-0 Blue advantage held for most of the half, until Crosson began heating up, first on a series of short passes. He led a fast drive down the field and, with seconds to spare, threw a back-corner fade that a leaping John Jackson somehow caught on the back of a defender and held on as both players tumbled to the earth.

After a brief halftime session and warm-up, the second half started. The 3rd quarter was a quiet one, without any scoring. Crosson found Jackson again on a deep pass and score in the 4th.

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