Finally, football is back in DeKalb County.
After more than a month-long delay due to coronavirus issues, DeKalb County teams took the field Friday night, and Tucker celebrated with a 29-12 win over county rival Southwest DeKalb at Haliford Stadium.
Getting back to football was especially good for Tucker, which not only had to deal with the ravishes of coronavirus, but also suffered through the deaths of four former Tiger players over the summer. Three were murdered – including last season’s leading rusher, Quarius Smith, who had signed to play at Valdosta State – and one drowned.
“It was a tough summer,” said Tucker head coach Bryan Lamar. “It was good to get the guys going and get back on the field.”
Tucker dominated from the outset, building a 24-0 lead at halftime with help from two turnovers and a goal line stand.
Tiger quarterback Amir Streeter and receiver Isiah Raheem got things started when they hooked up on a 44-yard touchdown to put Tucker up 7-0 early in the first quarter, after Camden Russell’s extra point kick.
The Streeter-to-Raheem combo hooked up again a few minutes later on a 37-yard touchdown pass and catch to push the Tiger lead to 15-0 after a two-point conversion pass.
In the second quarter, Russell’s 31-yard field goal, and Latavious Johnson’s 16-yard touchdown run made it 24-0.
Tucker increased the lead to 27-0 after Russell’s second field goal of the game, a 29-yarder, capped the Tigers' first drive of the second half – 10 plays, 61 yards in 3 minutes and 30 seconds. The lead grew to 29-0 on Southwest DeKalb’s next possession, as the Panthers snapped the ball into their own end zone as they attempted to punt.
But Southwest DeKalb didn’t quit. The Panthers went on a 79-yard march on their next possession, keyed by the passing of junior quarterback Sadir Ryan, the receiving of sophomore Armond David and senior Devarion Williams, and the running of senior James Carswell. Ryan capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown when he kept a zone-read and jogged into the end zone untouched. But the conversion run failed.
The Panthers added another score in the fourth quarter against several Tucker subs, when sophomore Sabian Campbell hit Davis with a 31-yard touchdown pass for the final points of the night.
“We found some things that we can do well in the second half,” Southwest DeKalb head coach Damian Wimes said. “I like the fight we showed. This is a tough first game. Tucker is a tough team and everything that could go bad for us in the first half, did. But I’m happy with the effort, and I think this loss with help us. It will show us that the little things, the details, matter.”
Lamar liked what he saw out of his team as well. After fielding young team last season that went 6-5 and was bounced out of the first round of the playoffs, the Tigers have a ton of experienced players back.
“This group has just gotten bigger, faster and stronger,” Lamar said. “We’re still not at full strength. We’ve got some starters out and we’ve got to work on our conditioning and our rotations. But overall, I’m excited about what I saw.”
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com