AUBURN — It wasn't shocking Tanner's defense came up with another gem Friday in its biggest game of the season.
Playing with unrelenting intensity, the Rattlers limited Washington County to 215 yards and intercepted four passes to help clinch the team's first state football title with a 28-14 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium on the Auburn University campus Friday.
That Tanner's defense was dominant wasn't a surprise. The Rattlers posted five shutouts in their first 13 games and held four other opponents to seven points or less. On the way to a 14-0 season, Tanner's stout defense allowed 100 points.
Jonathon Fletcher, who doubles as quarterback, delivered the decisive blow in the fourth quarter. Playing defensive back, he intercepted a Dane Howard pass and returned it 44 yards for Tanner's final score. As he neared the end zone, instead of juking Howard, Fletcher simply lowered his head and bulldozed over the Washington County quarterback who ended up on his back while the Rattlers celebrated.
Fletcher's first-half pick stopped a Washington County drive and set up Tanner's first touchdown. DeShun Freeman intercepted Howard near the goal line in the third quarter, and the Rattlers drove 93 yards for a score that put them ahead 21-7.
Howard finished 8 of 18 for 133 yards, including a late touchdown pass for the final margin.
Coach Laron White said the defensive game plan was to make life as difficult as possible for Howard, a three-year starter.
"Their quarterback is tough," White said. "If you have a smart, intelligent quarterback with good legs in high school, they're going to be hard to beat."
White wanted the defense to get the ball out of Howard's hands, particularly on the Bulldogs' option running game.
"We did a good job of containing him," White said. "He was the guy we had to contain on the option and make him pitch it. We did that tonight."
Tanner was effective against the run, too. T.J. Kidd rushed for 79 yards on 17 carries and a first-half touchdown, but the Rattlers recorded six tackles for loss and a sack.
Washington County coach Chris Wilson was impressed.
"They do a great job with their defense," he said. "We had plays that we missed, but you have to give them credit. They did a great job. Their safeties come up and play the run as good as anyone. And, they won't let you get over the top of them."
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