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Tigers score at will against Monroe, 54-0

15 seconds into the game, it was all but over.

Sophomore Deandre Savage returned the opening kickoff 80 yards and Greenville pitched a shutout on defense as the Tigers rolled 54-0 at home over Monroe County.

The worries that GHS head coach Ben Blackmon had before the start of Friday’s Class 5A, Region 3 contest never materialized.

Greenville, ranked No. 10 in the state, was supposed to beat Monroe County on Friday night. Blackmon, though, feared his team would come out with little fire, especially after last Thursday’s thrilling 28-24 win over then-No. 3 Carver-Montgomery.

“It was a concern,” said Blackmon. “I felt this game would define us as a team.”

It did.

And in a good way.

The Tigers’ first team put up 28 points in the first half even with starting halfback Cordez Peagler nursing an injury. Patrick Bedgood, starting in place of Peagler, made the most of his playing time, scoring on a 6-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

The Tigers’ first offensive touchdown drive was unique to say the least. Bedgood set it up himself, picking off a Monroe County pass at the 41-yard line. He then broke through the middle on a run for 23 yards to the 19-yard line.

The next play exemplified what Blackmon feared at the start. Kent Riley fumbled the ball on a reverse and by the time he’d picked it up, the freshman had lost 22 yards.

No matter. Quarterback Ryan Smith connected with Mikewese Claybourne for a 34-yard pass, which set up Bedgood’s run.

“Our seniors came out and put 28 points up on them quick and I think that made the difference,” said Blackmon. “We didn’t have a letdown.”

Later in the first quarter, Smith found wide receiver Michael Watts streaking down the middle of the field for a 64-yard touchdown pass.

Blackmon was searching for a replacement for speedy sophomore running back Fernandez Grey. Grey broke a bone in his leg against Carver-Montgomery and will miss the rest of the regular season, but Jamal Hamilton showed some explosiveness on Friday. Hamilton took a handoff from Smith in the second quarter on a reverse and outraced everyone to the endzone 76 yards for the score.

The points kept coming in the second half and special teams got it started.

Marcus Peters blocked a Monroe County punt, which resulted in a safety.

With the Tigers now up 30-0, Josh Salter returned the ensuing kickoff 46 yards and Smith scored from the 7-yard line.

Jay Johnson added a one-yard touchdown with 5:44 left in the third quarter and Stewart Moody kicked a 39-yard field goal to start the final period of play.

The Tigers led at that point 47-0.

Riley played the bulk of the second half in relief of Smith.

With 5:50 left in the game, Riley made up for his earlier fumble taking the snap from center and racing 75 yards for the touchdown.

The Tigers (3-0, 2-0) play at Selma next Friday night. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.