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Dragons down Gryphons on Senior Night

Collierville defenders spent much of Friday night in St. George’s backfield. The Dragons had four sacks and nine tackles for a loss. Collierville won the game 35-10. PICTURED: Collierville defenders engulf Gryphon senior quarterback Spencer Smith Friday night. Smith threw for 186 yards in the game but ran for negative 43 yards on 12 carries.                                                                                Photo by Roger Cotton

By Bill Sorrell
Swaying to the beat of the stadium music while on the sideline, Collierville quarterback Mitch Austin danced around defenders on the field, throwing three touchdown passes and running for another as the Dragons beat St. George’s 35-10 on Friday in Collierville.
“I guess I like to dance,” said Austin, with a smile.
Throwing touchdown passes of 30 yards to Kayvon Anderson, 53 and 32 yards to Ben Olsen, Austin ran for a 5-yard touchdown for the Dragons’ first score as they evened their record to 4-4 with an eye on their archrival Houston.
They play the Mustangs (7-1, 3-0 in Region 7-6A) at 7 p.m. Friday at Houston.
“I think this game provided a lot of confidence going into a rivalry game that a lot of us haven’t experienced including myself. I’ve been looking forward to this matchup my whole high school football career. We have got a lot more to accomplish,” said Austin, after the win over the Gryphons and what will be his first start against the Mustangs. “We got our swagger back after a tough loss to Central,” he continued. “We need every bit of confidence to play (Houston) in that type of environment. I think it is going to be a great game. They have got a great running back (Lincoln Pare). He brings a lot to the table for their offense and they have a good offensive line too. If we execute I think we’ll be fine.”
Completing 16 of 25 passes for 267 yards, Austin, a junior, led the Dragons offense, which also rushed for 123 yards. St. George’s Spencer Smith, Shelby-Metro’s passing leader in total yards with 1,445 through seven games, passed for 168 yards.
He also leads in passing touchdowns with 17 and is second in passing yards per game (206.4), third in total offense per game (228.6).
A 5-yard touchdown run by Nick Seward in the third quarter gave the Gryphons their first TD.
Collierville’s defense held the Gryphons to 4 rushing yards.
Austin entered the game 10th in Shelby-Metro in passing yards with 916, eighth in completion percentage (57.5), fourth in passing yards per game (152.7). He added to the numbers.
“That one roll out, he threw it 40 yards on the run and on a rope. He threw it across his body and hit our receiver in stride,” said Collierville Head Coach Mike O’Neill. “He had a great night. Our receivers did too. Kayvon Anderson and Ben Olsen had a couple of good catches. The receiving corps played really well.”

Collierville defenders spent much of Friday night in St. George’s backfield. The Dragons had four sacks and nine tackles for a loss. Collierville won the game 35-10. PICTURED: Collierville defenders engulf Gryphon senior quarterback Spencer Smith Friday night. Smith threw for 186 yards in the game but ran for negative 43 yards on 12 carries. Photo by Roger Cotton

Austin’s 53-yard roll-out touchdown pass to Olsen gave the Dragons a 21-0 lead with 2:10 left in the second quarter.
Anderson’s 30-yard touchdown reception earlier in the second quarter had given the Dragons a 14-0 lead. Austin got the Dragons on the board with a 5-yard run in the first quarter. Olsen’s second touchdown catch put them up 35-10 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter. Caleb Myers kicked three extra points and Sam Cardenas two.
A 6-yard touchdown run by Ladarin Brown put the Dragons up 28-3.
“He is doing an awesome job passing,” wide receiver Justin Stonework said of Austin. “He is getting beat up a little bit but he is still stepping up.”
Collierville defensive back Cade Cupp said, “Being as good as a baseball player as he is, Mitch is so deadly. He has a deadly arm and his vision is great.”
Said defensive tackle Jared Dawson, “Mitch was throwing it to the right places for them to be able to catch it and keep going and make touchdowns. He made it through some tight windows like in the corners.”
Said Austin, “I wouldn’t say this is my best game, I could’ve done the little things better but I’m poud of our team conquering a win. I’ve been throwing to these guys since I was a freshman so I know the timing I need to get the ball off and where to place it.”
O’Neill said, “Justin Stonework is so dangerous. After he catches it, he doesn’t need much room to get through.”
Stonework caught 6 passes for 74 yards, Olsen 5 for a game-high 103, Anderson 3 for 59 yards, Kobe Perkins 2 for 22 yards.
Entering sixth in Shelby-Metro, Stonework has a 70.9 receiving-yard average and 496 in receiving yards. He is second in total catches with 33.
“We blocked at the point of attack well with our receivers on the perimeter. We did good at times in the running game. We relied on the pass tonight,” said O’Neill.
Perkins rushed for 34 yards, Caleb Harris 35, Murphy 14, Jaden Spencer 15, Brown 21.
St. George’s Carsten Haddad kicked a 21-yard field goal, capping a 72-yard drive that showcased Smith’s passing ability and adroit recievers.
After a 15-yard pass to Isaac Smith to the Gryphons 47, Seward made a great catch. Scrambling, Smith ran for 9 yards and then connected with a 38-yard pass to Wes Smith to the Collierville 8 with 6 seconds left in the first half. A penalty on Collierville put it at the 4. Smith then passed to Isaac Smith in the end zone which was broken up by Jordan Henderson.
With one second left Haddad cut the lead to 21-3.
During the drive and with 1:42 left in the second quarter, St. George’s Justin Bray, a 6-3, 210-pound senior wide receiver/defensive end, broke his left ankle.
‘The Collierville player kind of slung me to the ground then it got bent back under me and I heard it crack,” said Bray, who has committed to play at Mercer University.
He is out for the season.
“The rest of the season is dedicated to Justin,” said Isaac Smith. “He has been hindered all year due to a bum groin. He kept fighting and doing everything he can to help his squad.”
St. George’s Head Coach Andre Lott called Bray “a big factor” offensively and defensively.
“He knows how to win and he knows how to fight and guys follow him. Those are big factors when he is out of the game.”
Said O’Neill, “I feel for him (Bray). They don’t have a lot of kids over there. I pray and I wish him the best.”
Regardless of the result, his team keeps fighting said Lott.
“We are always going to finish,” he said. “That is our goal whatever the results are going to be, finish the play, finish the game, continue to fight, continue to get better.”
A former NFL and University of Tennessee defensive player, Lott said “we fought at UT. That is what i am trying to instill in my guys. If we are playing a national championship team or whoever, continue to fight every play and fight for each other. NFL, it’s the same thing. Football is football. It starts with the O-line and the quarterback has to make smart decisions, receivers and running backs have to make plays.”
The Gryphons (3-5, 3-2 region) play at First Assembly Christian School (3-5, 1-3) at 7 p.m. Friday in a region game.
“We are still sitting well,” said Lott. The Gryphons will play their third 6A school this season on Oct. 26 school against Houston.
“Playing a 6A school, it is the numbers, he continued. “It’s no execuses regardless of how many numbers a team has.”
Collierville’s defense produced.
“We played solid football. We were able to get around the football and play pass defense. Jared Dawson did a good job. C.J. Barnes has been causing havoc in the backfield. Good pressure is the best pass defense,” said O’Neill.
Defensive back Jordan Henderson has six interceptions this season among the most in the area.
Dawson and Barnes combined for three of four quarterback sacks. With his team-high 7 tackles (5 solo), Dawson had 18 yards in sack loss. Barnes had 6 (4 solo) tackles with a sack of 14 yards. Eric Heilman had 5 (4 solo) tackles.
Jaylon Gonzales, Collierville defensive back, defended 6 passes including breakups. Jordan Wright had 2 defended passes. Cupp, Henderson, Victor Glover, Heilman one each.
“It was about being focused and keeping your head in the game, don’t let up. Everybody stayed together as a team. C. J. Barnes, Jared Dawson, Sean Johnson, Anu Dokun, Harrison Lester all did really good,” said Gonzales.
Cupp called the defensive line a “superstar.”
“We have the best D-line in the our conference right now. They have some good receivers and playmakers but they couldn’t get the ball off in time to make anything happen. We have some playmakers, C.J. Barnes (defensive end) and Jared Dawson. He is an upcoming senior. Sean Johnson (senior defensive end) is new to the team. He is a playmaker as well. We have Jordan Henderson in the secondary. We have Riley Basham at the other corner.”
A senior, Cupp, who had two tackles, said holding St. George’s to a field goal instead of a touchdown was a plus.
“They were on the 6-yard line and we held them,” he said. “They only got two yards on it. They ended up kicking a field goal which made it 28-3 instead of 28-7.
“We use each other’s skill level and balance everybody’s skill level and we really put their biggest threats on our biggest playmakers,” he added.
Nominated all-state last year, Cupp plans to attend football camps to increase interest from colleges.
“The defense did a really good job to help and the offense did a really good job. The offensive linemen were blocking really good,” said Dawson, mentioning Kendarius Malone, Michael Gildart, Xavier Gladney. St. George’s was a good team. They have beaten some good people.”
Glover and Dokun each had two tackles.
The Gryphons had standouts on defense. Cameron Turner had a game-high 8 tackles (7 solo). Khali Moore had 7 (6 solo), Timber King 5, Tyler Beasley 4 solo tackles. Wes Smith, Kyle Gasaway, Stuart Young each had 2. Cameron Head had sack of 10 yards.
One of their best series of the game was stopping the Dragons with a goal-line stand.
The Dragons had driven from their 36 to the Gryphons 1-yard line. A 22-yard pass from Austin to Stonework, a 9-yard gain by Murphy, a 7-yard pass from Austin to Stonework, a first-down run by Murphy each helped to get the Dragons to the 3. Murphy ran to the 1. Bray then tackled Murphy for a 3-yard loss. Cupp was tackled at the 4 by King and Thomas Lambert. Myers then missed a 21-yard field.
“It’s attitude, their want-to factor that you have to have. They showed it,” said Lott of the goal-line stand. “We had an opportunity and it got away from us. We were taking the plays they gave us.”
Bray said of the goal-line stand, “That just proved we could stop their offense. It showed how good our defense can be.”
O’Neill said, “You have to keep plugging away. We put a special package in and we fouled it up. We missed the kick that could have been a momentum changer. We were able to settle down. We had a couple of first downs and regrouped.”
What hurt the Gryphons were penalties. They had 10 for 87. Collierville had 8 for 59.
“We came out hard. We hurt ourselves at the beginning. When you play against a good team like Collierville you can’t make mistakes early in the game. We hurt ourselves giving up big plays,” said Lott.
A penalty on the first play of the game, a sack by Dawson, a pass interference penalty on St. George’s next series, stymied the Gryphons.
“The first series set the tone of the game. Our guys knew they were going to be pretty physical,” said O’Neill, who told his team at halftime to watch out for receiver Isaac Smith.
Through seven weeks, Smith is second in Shelby-Metro in receiving yards per games (90.4), second in receiving yards (633), fifth in total catches with 27 as has Seward. Smith is fourth in receiving touchdowns (7). St. George’s is second in total passing yards with 215.7 average and eighth in total offense with 343.3 yards.
Smith called Moore and King standouts.
“He (Moore) is a sophomore and is about 5-3 and started his first game at corner due to injury. He played with a lot of heart, knowing that he would be challenged. Another standout was Timber King, a linebacker. He isn’t afraid of anything and will hit whoever is in front of him.”
King led in rushing with 22 yards but lost yardage made the team total 4. Jake Hurley rushed for 22 yards.
Lott said standouts included Isaac Smith, Seward, Spencer Smith. “Wes Smith made some big plays on offense for us.”
Wes Smith finished with one catch for 38 yards, Bray two for 21, Steward five for 18, Lambert one for 10.
The Gryphons made some gutsy calls on fourth down including a first-down pass from Spencer Smith to Seward that gained 12 yards from the 50 to the Collierville 38.
“They were trying to make some things happen,” said O’Neill, whose team made things happen.
Austin capped a 61-yard drive in the first quarter with his 5-yard touchdown run that came with 7:05 left. A 13-yard pass from Austin to Stonework got to the 18.
On the Gryphons’ next series, Spencer Smith threw a 15-yard pass to Bray in the second quarter that got the Gryphons to their 36. King had a 10-yard run. The drive stalled when Dawson sacked Smith for a 10-yard loss at the 45.
Austin then completed a 24-yard pass to Anderson before he threw the 30-yard touchdown to Anderson with 3:47 left in the second.
“The turning point was the second touchdown. I threw it to Kayvon. We just had everything clicking,” said Austin, who has been working on consistency each game.
Austin’s 53-yard touchdown pass to Olsen followed for the 21-0 lead.
Austin had an 11-yard pass to Stonework that went to the St. George’s 46 before Head sacked Austin for a 10-yard loss.
The Dragons scored for a 28-3 lead after a 12-yard pass form Austin to Stonework and a 12-yarder to Olsen. From the 6, Brown scored with 6:00 left in the third quarter.
The Gryphons scored on a 78-yard drive. Hurley ran for 12 yards, Isaac Smith caught an 18-yard pass and a 19-yard pass before Seward ran 5 yards for the touchdown with 1:53 left. Haddad kicked the PAT.
A 14-yard pass from Austin to Perkins and a 17-yard run by Perkins preceded Olsen’s 32-yard touchdown reception from Austin. Myers made it 35-10 with 30 seconds left in the third.
Spencer Smith hit Isaac Smith for a 13-yard gain to the Gryphons 36 after a pass by Austin was incomplete on 4th and 5 on the 23. Lambert caught a 10-yard pass to the Dragons 45 in their last series.
Cardenas, among the Shelby-Metro leaders with a 35.6-yard average, had one punt for 42 yards. Haddad punted six times, including one for 43 yards, averaging 36.7 yards. Myers averaged 47.7 yards on kickoffs.
It was the second win for the Dragons in Landers Stadium. Observing Senior Night, O’Neill doesn’t want it to be their last game there this season.
“Our goal is to host a first-round playoff game. We have that opportunity if we win a couple of games in front of us. It’s pretty intimidating for other teams coming in,” said O’Neill.
Battling throat cancer last season, O’Neill said he is now “feeling great.”
“The grind of the season is to be expected. I feel healthy, taking it one game at a time. The power of prayer is incredible.”
Stonework credited passion of the seniors with getting the win.
“We have got to take these last two games and win them. My goal is to get to the state championship. I feel it is going to take a lot out of us but I feel we can doe it. I feel like we have the talent.”
Said Dawson, “The new stadium brings a lot of energy. We are undefeated here. One of our main goals is to not lose on this field.”

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