Gadsden City looks to rebound against Pell City


Gadsden City’s Jay Copeland looks to pass during a game earlier this season. (Photo by Eric T. Wright | Gadsden Times)


Matt Scott isn’t  the only one who sees it when looking at the Gadsden City high school football team.

Each week when game film is reviewed, Gadsden City’s first-year coach and his staff naturally assess what the Titans need to work on, but they also take note of improvements. The latter certainly isn’t lost on the players who also watch game film, Scott said.

“We feel like we’re really close,” he stressed, explaining the Titans are progressing toward becoming a complete team.

“It’s amazing how much we’ve improved since that first game, and they see that too. I think they’re excited heading into the second half of the season.”

The second half begins Friday night with a 7 o’clock kickoff at Titan Stadium when Gadsden City (2-3, 2-1) hosts Pell City (3-2, 2-1) in a Class 6A, Region 7 game that will go a long way in helping determine the postseason fate of both teams.

With two region wins apiece, Gadsden City and Pell City are in a four-way tie for second in the region with Huntsville and Oxford, behind undefeated Clay-Chalkville, the state’s second-ranked team.

Having players injury free hasn’t been a luxury the Titans have enjoyed too much this season with the first players being sidelined in Week 1 and continuing from there, but in kicking off Week 6 play against the Pell City, Gadsden City is almost back at full strength. Scott said receiver Austin Clark, who hasn’t played since a shoulder injury against Lee-Huntsville in Week 2, remains a game-time decision.

The Panthers come to town having lost 22-15 to 6A Oak Mountain last week in a non-region game that Pell City led 15-7 at halftime. Likewise, the Titans enter this week’s region game coming off a heartbreaking loss in a non-region matchup at 6A, No. 8 Auburn. Gadsden City lost 16-13 after holding a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Defense has been a staple of the Titans this season, with Gadsden City featuring a unit limiting teams to 11.4 points per game.

Quarterbacks Jay Copeland, a senior, and sophomore Ahmad DeRamus lead a controlled offense that is averaging just 15 points per outing. Junior Sloan Tyler also has quarterbacked the Titans at times this season.

Copeland likely will start as he did against Auburn, with DeRamus taking the field for some situational schemes, particularly on third-down.

“We’re still working on that,” Scott said of third-down efficiency. “We still had some issues on third down against Auburn, but last week was tough to judge on them because third-and-long is difficult against a team like them being so good defensively.”

Gadsden City aims to stretch the field, making the Panthers defend the run and pass. Gabe Ford is the Titans’ leading rusher, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Terrell Malone, at 9.7 yards per catch, is Gadsden City’s leading receiver.

Pell City is scoring 22.2 points through the first half of the season, while its defense is allowing opponents an average of 14.8 points.

Chris McElderry, Blair Edwards, Matthew Posey and T.J. Posey solidify a Titan defense that will contend with a Panther offense commanded by senior quarterback Jackson Williamson, a threat with his arm and legs. Demaurian Wills, a 230-pound back, likely will get his share of carries for Pell City.

The defense will need to keep playmaker Ira Burch, a scoring threat running or catching the ball, in check and account for him on defense where he’s covered fumbles, intercepted the ball and scored for the Panthers this season.

“They’ll run a lot of option-type stuff,” Scott said, noting the Panthers have the best running game the Titans have seen thus far. “Our defense has just got to play disciplined. They’re going to pick spots to throw the play-action pass on you and try to get behind you. Especially after we had some issues with that last week, we’re going to see that. They’re known for running deception type plays too.”

Gadsden City lost 21-19 to  Pell City in last year’s matchup.