PRATTVILLE — Autauga Academy coach Mike Sims could tell his football team was focused during the first quarter Aug. 24 against Coosa Valley.
Alabama commitment O.J. Howard scored three touchdowns in more than an eight-minute span to create a hole Coosa Valley would never recover from. The Generals, ranked fourth in AISA, went on to win 34-17 in their season opener on Friday night.
It was the remaining three that frustrated Sims the most.
“It happens when you have young guys,” Sims said. “When they’re in your program and you have young guys, there’s going to be consistency problems — and we get that. I think it’s better to start off like this than a big win because it teaches our guys that they need to finish what they started.”
Despite racking up 153 yards on the ground and forging a 27-0 advantage at the end of the first quarter, the Generals (1-0) seemed to take their foot off the gas as if the Rebels (1-1) would just roll over, scream uncle and jump back on the bus to head home.
“We jumped out 27-0, and our kids thought we were cruising,” Sims said.
The game could have been totally different if it wasn’t for Autauga’s huge opening quarter. Zach Sharpe drilled a 48-yard field goal to close out the first half to slice Coosa Valley’s deficit to 17 points and provide some confidence heading into the third.
“We got up early and then we started to get relaxed because we had a big lead, I guess,” Howard said. “We started making mistakes all around; holding penalties, not blocking up front. Fumbles killed us also and not executing in the red zone.”
The Generals would not find their offensive footing again until Chris Reese’s 7-yard run with 9:53 left.
But in the first quarter, Autauga looked like a well-oiled machine. Howard scored on a 16-yard run, scooped up a fumble for a 37-yard return and added a 17-yard run to cap his impressive start to the 2012 campaign. Eric Graham’s 2-yard plunge made it 27-0 with 15.2 seconds to go.
“We scored on defense and offense, it was awesome,” Howard said. “It was pretty exciting to see what type of offense we can be if we stay focused for an entire game. I think we got a pretty good offense when we’re focused on what needs to be done.”
Sims figured there were some questions that needed answering with players still being added to the roster.
“The first few minutes were huge because we found out that the players wanted to be here,” Sims said. “We got a bunch of guys who hadn’t played together; 7-on-7 is one thing but getting in those trenches together is another.”
Coosa Valley coach Arlton Hudson’s frustration could’ve doubled his coaching counterpart. The Rebels fumbles nine times — the Generals recovered four of them — and was held under 50 yards after the break.
“We gave them two touchdowns,” said Hudson, a first-year coach. “You can’t give a good football team those kinds of breaks.”