By REID TUCKER
The Bulldogs hadn’t won a football game since November of 2012. Those days are over.
Freeport slogged through a brutal 0-10 2013 season followed by back-to-back preseason losses in 2014, but if the boys from Freeport were discouraged in the slightest it wasn’t showing on the night of Aug. 29. The Bulldogs not only reversed their fortunes with a 24-6 win against Cottondale, the same team that rode upset after upset all the way to 1A state semifinal, they also got payback for last year’s 52-26 loss to the Hornets. More than that though, the season-opening win showed that Freeport has put the past far in the rearview.
“Last year was an anomaly,” said head coach Jim Anderson. “I’m so proud of the boys for working hard like they did tonight and like they did at practice all week. We’ve still got a lot to work on, but it so good to be back. It’s been so long, but we’re back on track now.”
Senior running back David Godwin was the real standout on a night of exemplary Freeport performances. As Freeport’s leading rusher, Godwin accumulated 103 yards on 13 carries, including a 41-yard touchdown run to get the Bulldogs started on their way to the win. He outshone even this on the other side of the ball with four tackles for a loss against Cottondale’s running game plus two of Freeport’s four quarterback sacks in the game.
Sophomore starting quarterback Dillon Bates led the team in scoring with two touchdowns – one on a goal-line keeper with 7:29 to go in the third quarter and the other via a 19–yard pass to Chris Decker with 9:44 left in the ballgame. Bates completed 3-of-8 passes for 39 yards through the air, plus an additional 20 rushing yards on 11 carries. Senior kicker Matthew Blair got two field goal chances, and though his missed his first attempt toward the end of the first quarter, he put the second kick squarely between the uprights at the 1:51 mark of the fourth.
The Freeport defense was similarly on top of things, holding Cottondale’s best offensive weapons, Javontai Hall (68 yards in 16 carries), Marcus Johnson (38 yards in seven carries) and quarterback Justin Lipford (3-for-11 for 59 yards passing) more or less at bay. Freeport allowed just the one Hornet touchdown – a 23-yard run from Johnson with 4:23 to go in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs’ defensive effort is further attested by Senior Phillip Johnson’s pair of fumble recoveries, while sophomore Bailey Miller added another two QB sacks on the night.
Godwin set the tone for the game early, running from the Bulldogs’ own 35 for what would have been a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage had the play not been called back by a flag. Unperturbed, Freeport battled through the scoreless first quarter to establish a 7-0 lead by halftime and a 14-0 lead by halfway through the third quarter. Cottondale made it a fairly close game with its own TD in the third, but the ‘Dogs powered ahead, burning 15 plays and 6:51 off the clock to get a 21-6 advantage in the fourth before Blair’s field goal sealed the deal on the return-to-form win.
By REID TUCKER