ATHENS -- Trailing 10-0 at halftime and the vaunted Apalachee running game held to 78 yards by a stingy Cedar Shoals defense, Wildcats head coach Shane Davis had a simple message during intermission.
"We didn't say a lot," said Apalachee Head Coach Shane Davis, "We talked as a staff and got the offense over and really only made two adjustments."
The Wildcats obviously listened. Apalachee (3-4, 2-3 Region 8-AAAAA) exploded for 27 points and 244 yards, all on the ground, in the second half to stun the Jaguars 27-23 on Senior Night at Waters-Wilkins Stadium in Athens.
Cedar Shoals' fast-break offense struck quickly on the second possession of the game. Darius Jordan capped a 3-play, 45-yard drive with a 16-yard TD pass to Chris Middlebrooks and 7-0 Jaguars lead midway through the first quarter.
Late in the half, the Jaguars defense pounced on an Eric Tanner fumble on the Apalachee 35-yard line. Cedar Shoals capitalized when Zak Huberty booted a 30-yard field goal to extend the lead at the break.
With the offense sputtering, Davis credited offensive coordinator Joel Miller for his halftime adjustments.
"Four years ago Coach Miller would have lost his mind and gone crazy in there, but he was very calm," said Davis, "and the kids went out and executed."
Apalachee emerged from the locker room a different team. On the opening possession of the half the Wildcats marched 78 yards in nine plays. Tanner rumbled 22 yards up the middle for a TD to carve the lead to 10-7 with 7:12 remaining in the third quarter.
After Cedar Shoals countered with a 14-yard TD run by Brandon Whitehead, Apalachee completely took over in the fourth quarter.
On the third play of the quarter, Zay Henry scooted 9 yards off tackle to cut the lead to 17-13.
The Wildcats defense, which had trouble keeping pace with the pace of the Cedar Shoals offense, stoned the Jaguars on the ensuing possession to force a punt.
"They are tough to defend", said Coach Davis, "but we made some tweaks with our defensive ends on the way we were playing it, and we were able to slow them down in the second half."
Starting at their own 23-yard line, Apalachee wasted little time taking the lead. On the second play of the drive, Monterian Smith raced 21 yards before a personal foul penalty against Cedar Shoals moved the ball into Jaguars territory. On the next snap Smith sprinted 35 yards for a TD to give the Wildcats their first lead at 20-17.
After converting a fourth-and-6 at the Jaguars 19-yard line, Tanner scored his second TD on a 7-yard run with 1:49 left to cement the win for Apalachee.
Smith ran for 159 yards on 15 carries and a TD, and Tanner added 112 yards on 22 carries and 2 TDs to lead the Wildcats.