SPRING GARDEN – Senior fullback Luke Welsh ran for 144 yards on seven carries and scored two touchdowns, and senior quarterback Ryley Kirk connected on 5-of-6 pass attempts for 170 yards and two scores to lead Class 2A, No. 4 Spring Garden to a 51-13 football victory over visiting Wadley on Friday.
The Bulldogs (3-7) built an early 6-0 lead on an 85-yard interception return by Isacc Minnifield, but the Panthers (9-1) responded by scoring 51 unanswered points.
Cooper Austin hauled in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Ryley Kirk with 9:49 remaining in the first quarter. The extra point gave the Panthers a 7-6 lead.
Austin caught a pair of passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. He also added four tackles and an interception on defense.
Weston Kirk, who had 58 yards on five carries, accounted for Spring Garden’s next two scores on runs of 31 and 5 yards to put the Panthers in front 21-6. Chaz Pope capped the first-quarter scoring with a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown, giving Spring Garden a 27-6 advantage.
Welsh scored on runs of 5 and 99 yards in the second quarter. Pope added a 36-yard touchdown reception to give Spring Garden a 48-6 halftime lead.
Pope had a pair of catches for 55 yards with a touchdown. He also snagged two interceptions on defense.
Wadley accounted for the only second-half scores, both in the fourth quarter on a 30-yard field goal and a 9-yard touchdown run by Jacob Marable.
Weston Kirk, Connor Bates and Lucas Frost each registered four tackles on defense. Frost also forced a fumble. Nathan Law also recovered a fumble.
Both teams will open the state playoffs next Friday. Spring Garden hosts Tanner (5-4), while Class 1A Wadley travels to Decatur Heritage (8-2).
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