gmc prep football vs warren

Senior defensive back Alex French shows off the football after the Bulldog defense secured a clutch turnover with just over two minutes to play Friday. GMC Prep would turn the possession into points as Levi Ward knocked through a 24-yard field goal to put the ‘Dogs up 17-6 over Warren County late.

It’s that time of year when high school football games carry a ton of weight.

Losses can wreck teams’ region championship or playoff hopes while winners fight on for glory.

GMC Prep football (9-0 overall, 5-0 region) is part of that latter group in 2021. The Bulldogs played a much cleaner game than their Friday night counterparts the Warren County Screaming Devils (5-3, 3-1) to win 17-6, putting the ‘Dogs in the driver’s seat for the Region 7-A Public championship. All they have to do now is beat ACE Charter in Macon next week to secure GMC Prep’s first region title in over 60 years. 

“This is a surreal moment,” third-year GMC head coach Lee Coleman said after Friday’s victory. “The man upstairs has blessed us. We’re healthy, and we’re playing hard. Words can’t even explain it right now. This is unbelievable.”

Coleman’s ‘Dogs went into Friday’s game against a Warren County team that had won the last two head-to-head meetings by a combined score of 86-3. A very different GMC Prep team took the field for this year’s matchup. This new breed is doing something that can make any team extremely dangerous. They believe. It’s a long way from where the program was when Coleman took over in 2019.

“Starting with six guys at workouts two years ago to having 29 guys now, it just goes to show the dedication, the heart, the grit, and the belief those guys had in myself and the coaching staff,” the head coach said. 

He also gave credit for the transformation to GMC Prep’s former athletic trainer Nolan Baugh, who still helps out the team on Friday nights.

“Nolan saw my vision and he came in and started working these boys out to help them get to this point,” Coleman added. 

All of that work led to Friday night where the Bulldogs were looking for their first touchdown against Warren during Coleman’s tenure. It came in a pretty unconventional way when late in the first quarter the Devils were punting from deep in their own territory. The longsnap flew high and into the visitors’ own end zone, and that’s where two GMC players converged on the loose ball. Sophomore Bryce Smith kept Warren’s punter away from the football while freshman Logan McMillan fell on it for the TD to put the Bulldogs up 7-0. 

“The special teams got the first touchdown, and that really started us off,” said Coleman.

It may have taken three years for Coleman to get his first TD against Warren, but he didn’t have to wait long for the second. The Devils, head coached by former GMC head Steven Simpson, fumbled the football away on their next drive, and the ‘Dogs took full advantage. Junior QB Tyler Saunders flung the ball out to senior receiver Corey Brookins on a screen pass. Brookins followed his blocking, made some nifty moves, and outran the Warren defenders for a 35-yard touchdown that added to the home team’s lead as the first quarter expired. 

The score would remain at 14-0 until the fourth quarter. Warren was playing without some of its difference-makers Friday. It showed, especially on offense as the unit struggled to put almost any clean drives together. That changed in the final period when a couple of big plays set up Devils QB Ra’Shad Myers for a short TD run with 8:13 to play. Warren went for two, but was stonewalled, which kept the score at 14-6.

The visitors’ third critical mistake came on the very next GMC possession. The Bulldogs punted with about six minutes remaining, but the ball hit a Warren player and GMC recovered. It wasn’t the final blow, but it was a big one. 

“That wasn’t typical of us, but that’s no excuse,” Simpson said of his team’s error-filled performance. “We just didn’t come ready to play. GMC had a great gameplan. Coach Coleman and his guys do a great job. I’m proud of them and I’m happy for the school. There’s still a few guys on the team that I coached when I was here. If somebody’s got to win it and it’s not me, I'm glad it’s them.”

Warren did have another shot to maybe tie, but a fumbled pitch on fourth-and-3 with 2:28 to go dashed any hopes of a last-second comeback. The Bulldogs took over and turned that possession into points via 24-yard field goal off the foot of Levi Ward. 

The Davenport Field clock hit zeroes not long after, and the 9-0 celebration was on. 

But there’s still work to be done. GMC can clinch the region title by beating ACE (3-3, 3-1) next week. The Gryphons of Macon lost to Warren 48-21 last week, so that result definitely bodes well for the Bulldogs. A GMC loss to ACE would not mean the region championship is lost. If Warren takes care of business the rest of the way, the ‘Dogs would still come out on top. Coach Coleman doesn’t want to see any of that come into play, though. 

“We’ve got to go ahead and just lock it up,” he said. “We just need to take care of business and not underestimate ACE. We’ve beat them the last two years, but they’re playing a lot better.”

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