Commerce’s run toward a state title ended in Round 2, as the Tigers lost to Darlington, 28-14 in Rome.
Darlington (8-4) came out and went blow-for-blow with the traditional power, getting timely turnovers on defense and lengthy scoring drives to defeat the visiting Tigers and advance to the third round.
"I told the kids I’m going to put you in a position to make plays," Darlington coach Tommy Atha said. "I’m going to give you the opportunity to be the athletes and football players that you are, and, man, we had some kids step up tonight."
The win will move Atha’s team into the round of eight where they await Twiggs County.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game came at the beginning of the fourth quarter after Commerce (7-5) had picked off a Darlington pass with the score 21-14 and driven the ball back down the Darlington 10. On third-and-five, the Darlington defense forced a fumble and recovered it to stop the drive.
"That makes the difference in the ballgame," Atha said. "The defense created some turnovers and rose to the occasion. That’s the second week in a row that the bowed their backs down around the goal line."
Commerce pulled to within a touchdown in the third on a 35-yard connection from Streetman to Carl Allen, but Darlington answered with a score of its own.
Cedric Spivey capped a 17-play drive with a 5-yard game-clinching touchdown, his second score of the night.
"That last drive was a character builder right there," Atha said. "Being able to take that thing and grind it out and work that clock, probably the biggest drive of the year."
Darlington got big contributions from several players on offense including Spivey, freshman quarterback Brad Butler and senior running back Tylon Garrett. Butler finished the night 9-for-12 for 103 yards and one touchdown. He also had 80 yards on the ground.
Garrett had 67 yards on 21 carries and scored on Darlington’s first drive of the second half to make it 21-7.
"This is as fine a win as we’ve had here in quite some time," Atha said. "People keep doubting us. People keep saying ‘no they’re not that good,’ but they don’t know very much about my boys.
"They just continue to make plays and refuse to give up."
Courtesy of The Rome News-Tribune.