CALHOUN, Ga. — Blessed Trinity hit the field for the first time in a month Friday night and picked up where they left off, taking down Calhoun in a battle of top-10 ranked teams. It was the Titans’ debut game in Region 5-7A.
BT was led by a remarkable performance from sophomore running back Justice Haynes, who accounted for all five of the team’s touchdowns.
The game will likely not go down as BT’s prettiest win of the year. The Titans turned the ball over four times, and their defense struggled early. But BT (3-0, 1-0) overcame the rust that had formed over four weeks without a game to take the win.
“The players played so hard even when they were down,” BT head coach Tim McFarlin said. “You never know how a team is going to respond to adversity early in the season, and it’s early for us. The effort was outstanding. We’ll fix the technical stuff, what we can’t fix is when they don’t play hard, and that’s not the case with these kids.”
It was also just nice to be able to suit up for a game again.
“Every time a game is cancelled there is disappointment, and for four straight weeks we were running into disappointments,” McFarlin said. “Sometimes it was us in quarantine, sometimes it was the other teams, but our young men really stayed the course. They are learning some great life lessons this season. I don’t know what’s ahead, but there are benefits to facing these kinds of situations, and it’s going to pay dividends long after they leave high school.”
Though the Titans got to celebrate after 48 minutes of play, the first 12 were ominous.
Calhoun (5-2, 1-1) scored on an 80-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the game, and BT’s opening two drives ended with interceptions. With a minute remaining in the first quarter, the Yellow Jackets built their lead to 14-0 with a 54-yard touchdown pass.
While the first quarter was all Calhoun, BT owned the second frame.
Haynes scored the first of his five touchdowns early in quarter by tossing several defenders away with stiff-arms on his way to a 45-yard touchdown. Haynes played aggressively throughout the contest, barreling over defenders and constantly falling forward for extra yards.
“He is such a talented player, but his tenacity, I think, is one of the things that really stands out,” McFarlin said. “Those were tough yards. But I think you have to speak about [Haynes and the offensive line] in the same breath. The O-line did a fantastic job, and the tight end and even wide receiver blocking was exceptional. It was certainly a team effort. Justice just did more than anyone could have asked.”
BT’s defense also found its stride in the second quarter. The Titans forced a three-and-out before recovering a fumble on Calhoun’s 20-yard line that set up Haynes’ second touchdown to tie the game at 14-14.
Haynes flipped the script on Calhoun to open the third quarter. On the first offensive play, he ran 80-yards for his third score to give BT its first lead.
The Titans looked poised to increase their lead, but a fumble inside Calhoun’s 5-yard line recovered by the Yellow Jackets set up a 97-yard drive to knot the score at 21-21 midway through the third.
Calhoun had its chance to reclaim the lead following a BT fumble on a blind-side hit to quarterback JC French, but the Yellow Jackets went three-and-out.
Haynes and fellow running back Englan Williams shared carries on the Titans’ ensuing drive, with Haynes rushing in from 9-yards out, untouched, to give BT a 28-21 lead with seven minutes left in the game.
Calhoun drove the field quickly on their next possession, but BT stood tall and forced an incompletion on a fourth-and-goal play from the 7-yard line.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” McFarlin said. “We gave them 14 points early, we kept turning the ball over and it put the defense in a tough situation, but they kept going and kept them out of the end zone.”
BT picked up a vital first down on their next drive, using a bit of trickery with Haynes delivering a pass to French. That put BT well inside Calhoun territory. Haynes iced the game with his fifth touchdown with two minutes remaining.
The Titans will continue fine-tuning with just three games under their belt, while much of their competition has nearly double that number. But McFarlin said his squad is willing to continue grinding away.
“We missed 28 out of 60 days getting ready for this season,” he said. “These kids are just so remarkable. I think God is watching out for us in that we found disappointment when we lost (scheduled) games, but I don’t think we would be physically prepared for a 15-game season this year.”
The Titans are in for another top-10 showdown Oct. 30 when they face Cartersville (6-1, 2-0).
BT ended Cartersville’s 41-game win streak, with Trevor Lawrence behind center, in 2017 and took down the Canes 23-9 for the 2018 Class 4A state championship.