His name is senior running back Robert ‘Bam’ Henderson.
Henderson rushed for 113 yards on 13 carries and scored three touchdowns, leading Class 1A, No. 8 Cedar Bluff to a 42-0 victory in the Tigers’ first game at newly renovated L.D. Bruce Field.
It was the Tigers’ 17th consecutive victory over their longtime rival, but it was the first time since 2006 that Cedar Bluff (1-0, 1-0 Region 7) opened a football season with a win.
That was a streak Henderson and the Tigers wanted to end.
“Coach (Jonathan McWhorter) told us if we come out and be physical like we were supposed to, then we would have a great game,” Henderson said. “I want to thank my linemen and receivers. They did a good job blocking inside and outside. They just helped me have the game I had and helped us get the victory.”
McWhorter didn’t single out Henderson’s performance, but like Henderson, he gave praise to the Tigers’ offensive front that helped create the holes all of Cedar Bluff’s running backs had to run through.
“Any time you see a hole open, it’s not because somebody falls down or a running back is doing something great. It’s probably because somebody’s working their tail off to block,” McWhorter said. “I feel like by committee, we had a pretty good rushing night.”
And it wasn’t just a good night rushing the football for the Tigers. Cedar Bluff’s defense turned the Trojans (0-1, 0-1 Region 7) away every time they had the football.
Again, McWhorter gave credit to the guys in the trenches.
“Our offensive and defensive lines kind of took over a little bit and established some physicality,” McWhorter said. “We felt like going into this year that was going to be a strong point. We play a lot of older kids. We start three seniors on the defensive line, and we’ve got two or three other kids we rotate in there. We’ve got six offensive linemen we rotate. I feel like both sides of the ball we did a really good job.”
But a shutout by the Tiger defense appeared unlikely early. Gaylesville took its opening possession and milked over six minutes off the clock.
However, four penalties on that drive prevented the Trojans from finding the end zone.
“The thing we do is we try to control the clock,” Gaylesville coach Brian Clowdis said. “I think we had the ball for almost a quarter-and-a-half and came away with no points. They (Cedar Bluff) had three possessions and they scored on two of them.
“It’s like I told the kids, sometimes the wheels fall off, but you can get them back on. Tonight, all of them fell off and we didn’t respond. We’ve got to get back to where we’re playing intense for four quarters.”
After Gaylesville was forced to punt on its opening possession, it took Cedar Bluff just four plays to score the game’s first touchdown. Henderson rambled 37 yards to cap on his first score of the night with 4:30 left in the first quarter. Curtis Abernathy’s extra point capped the 84-yard drive, putting the Tigers out in front 7-0.
Henderson found the end zone a second time with just under a minute remaining in the first half. That touchdown came on a 3-yard run, and it helped put Cedar Bluff up 14-0.
After the kickoff, Gaylesville senior running back John David Jennings had a pair of 20-plus yard runs to drive the ball down to the Cedar Bluff 29-yard line.
Jennings led the Trojan offense with 119 yards on 19 carries.
“John David is going to play hard every night. He just loves playing football,” Clowdis said. “He’s probably the toughest kid I’ve ever coached. We moved the ball and had a lot of yards tonight, but if you’re going backwards as much as you’re going forward … it just seemed like we were doing that tonight.”
Following a Gaylesville timeout with 25.4 seconds to go, junior quarterback Cole Murphy was picked off by senior defensive back Alex Hairston to kill the drive with 11.5 seconds left in the first half.
Cedar Bluff took the opening possession of the third quarter and punched it in. This time, Tiger senior quarterback Levi Mintz connected with Hairston on a 51-yard pass. Abernathy’s kick made it 21-0 Tigers with 9:51 remaining in the third quarter.
Mintz completed 9 of 13 passes for 120 yards and the touchdown to Hairston.
Following a Trojan turnover on downs, Cedar Bluff cashed it in for another score. Henderson scored his third and final touchdown of the night on a 5-yard run. A miscue on the extra point turned into Abernathy connecting with senior receiver DeAngelo Hardy for a 2-point conversion. The play gave the Tigers a 29-0 advantage with 4:08 left in the third.
Gaylesville’s defense came up with a big play of its own near then end of the third quarter. Junior linebacker Dylan Cavin fell on a Tiger fumble at the Trojan 30 with 29.5 seconds to go in the third.
Two plays later, however, the Trojans gave it right back on Murphy’s second interception of the game. This one went to senior defensive back Terrence Scales, who returned it to the Trojan 23. Five plays later, senior running back CJ Gilreath scored on a 2-yard run, putting Cedar Bluff in front 36-0.
Gaylesville fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by the Tigers’ Nick Combs at the Trojan 29. It took just five plays for Cedar Bluff to score again, this time on a 17-yard run by sophomore running back DShawn Fife with 7:23 left in the game for the final.
“Any time you pitch a shutout and put a few points on the board, it’s hard to be negative, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” McWhorter said. “I’m really proud of our kids and our coaches. I feel like Coach (Scott) Clifton did a good job calling the defense, Coach (Matt) Watson with our offensive and defensive linemen, Coach (Todd) Dean with our running backs and outside backers, and Coach (Evan) Talbot with our receivers and defensive backs. It truly was a team effort tonight.”