The Gardendale Rockets came into the season opener ranked #9 in 6A and made the 90 minute drive up north to take on a non-region opponent in James Clemens that was ranked #6 in 7A. It was one of the premier match-ups across the state between highly ranked teams on Friday night.
The fans showed the importance of the game by packing both sides of Madison City Schools Stadium. It was a packed house and the game didn’t disappoint with 75 total points scored and a final score of Gardendale 41 and James Clemens 34.
Tyler Nelson is dynamic and a gamechanger. The senior Gardendale quarterback has a mix of size, speed and agility. He showed the ability to find holes when he tucks and runs. If you let him get past the edge and to the outside with his size and speed, he is hard to bring down.
Nelson had 27 rushes for 304 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns. That 304 yards of rushing is against Gardendale’s total rushing yards of 332. So, he had 94% of the Rockets total rushing yards.
That will need to change and become more balanced. As more teams begin to see the film and focus on Nelson, it should open up 6 or 7 yard slants across the middle. Look for some growth here from slot receivers and Tight Ends.
Nelson was 10 of 15 for 150 yards in passing with 2 touchdowns. One for 36 yards to Sophomore Carter Jenkins and another for 37 yards to senior Caden McGruder.
It was an impressive performance by Tyler Nelson. He accounted for 454 of the Rockets 482 yards of total offense.
A Big Momentum Turner
With the momentum in the first half clearly on the side of James Clemens and Gardendale down 21-7 in the 2nd quarter, Nelson’s 97 yard running touchdown with 7:41 left in the 1st half brought the score to 21-14 and turned the tide of momentum back to Gardendale.
That was followed up by another big run by Nelson of 65 yards and a score with just over 2 minutes remaining in the half. A missed extra point and the Rockets were now only down 21-20.
The Rockets scored 20 points in the last 8 minutes of the 1st half.
The coaches I talked to all mentioned penalties, and it was an issue. Gardendale made 9 for 81 yards. Some of that is first game mistakes and some is some inexperience with young players replacing starters from last season. The Rockets will need to clean up the penalties moving forward.
The Rockets had to replace 3 starters from last season on their offensive line and early on the inexperience showed, especially through some early penalties. But they played better as the game went along, especially after the first quarter and what should make the Rockets coaches and fans feel good about this line is traveling on the road to a highly ranked 7A opponent never looked like it was too big of a moment for them. They have good size and showed good technique and they should be a force as the season progresses and the experience takes hold.
Gardendale had 332 total rushing yards and Tyler Nelson had 304 of them. As impressive and dynamic as Nelson is as a player, the Rockets will need a more balanced running attack as the season progresses. There were 47 total rushing attempts and Nelson had 27 of them. The other 20 rushing attempts yielded just 28 yards.
The Rockets are going to need a commitment to more balance.
3rd Down Conversions
The Rockets were less than 50% on 3rd down conversions, going 4 of 11. It’s an area that Gardendale will need to improve on.
Nelson had a 5 touchdown performance on the night. Rushing for 3 touchdowns of 97, 65 and 6 yards and throwing for 2 touchdowns of 36 and 37 yards.
It was a Player of the Game performance.
Freshman kicker, Peyton Glass, deserves accolades for his performance on Friday night. The young kicker was just recently asked to kick and was kicking for the first time in a big time football game and on the road. He made 5 of 6 extra points. Well done.
The Gardendale Students. The Launch Pad was in full force, even at an away game. The student section was coordinated, loud and impressive and they were difference makers. Coupled with the impressive Rockets band and cheerleaders, they were louder and more energetic than their counterparts who were playing at home.
Well done, Launch Pad. I can only imagine what that experience will be like when you are at Driver Stadium next Friday night.
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