By Doug Gorman
Coaches love to tell their players that defense wins championships.
The Babb Bulldogs must have been listening Thursday night.
On a cold and wet night at Twelve Oaks Stadium in Lovejoy, the Bulldogs' defense forced several turnovers and kept Riverdale out of the end zone en route to a 14-0 victory in the Clayton County Middle School Championship game.
"This is wonderful," Babb head coach Phillip Shiflet said. "The defense has done a great job all year. This is a great group of kids. They have good grades and they play hard. I couldn't ask for more. We have a great offense and a great defense."
With the victory, Babb completed a perfect 9-0 record.
The Bulldogs scored the game's first touchdown less than six minutes into the game. Thanks to Demetrius Huff's kick return from his own 24 to the Riverdale 32, Babb began the game with good field position.
Ten plays later, Babb was in the end zone for the first score when Quantavious Higgins rushed in from the six.
Babb completed two fourth-down situations during the series, including when Huff moved the chains on fourth-and-eight.
The Bulldogs biggest turnover of the night came late in the game when the Spartans turned the ball back over to the Bulldogs after a fumble. At the time, the Bulldogs only led 8-0.
Riverdale was driving the ball at the time, taking advantage of a roughing the passer penalty that wiped out Costa Anderson's interception, but the Spartans were unable to capitalize on the personal foul by Babb as the ball went back over to the Bulldogs on a turnover.
With just 22 seconds remaining in the game, Babb sealed the victory on Higgins' second touchdown of the night, this time on an 11-yard scamper.
Riverdale had its chances during the game, picking up some big plays during the contest. A half-back pass from Greg Taylor to Gerard Gober went for 20-yards, but the Spartans were unable to convert another first down during the series.
Running back Isa Muhammad was the go-to-guy for Riverdale, carrying the ball several times.
Shiflet had a feeling his team was going to have success when he first watched them practice during the preseason.
"They are good football players, and I knew that from early in the season," he said.
Most of the Babb football team is expected to attend Forest Park, and Shiflet says the Panthers are getting a good collection of players.
"They know guys are going to be bigger and faster once they get to high school," he said. "I tried to give them a solid foundation, so once they get to high school, they are prepared to play at the next level.