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Despite difficulties, Edgewood back in title game

Edgewood quarterback Tyler Hawthorne (left) and running back Josh Crawford have been the key to the Wildcats’ offensive success this season. (Staff Photo)

By Graham Dunn
RRS Editor

(November 22, 2013)

It’s hard to figure that the road to Troy for the Edgewood Academy Wildcats has been one of the toughest yet.

Sure, the Wildcats were the overwhelming favorites to reach the AISA Class AA championship game. It’s happened the last five years, now six years and eight times since 2003.

Still, there have been roadblocks in the name of injuries and some what of a youth movement.

But another AISA Tripleheader arrives and “Little e” is here and defending the title.

“You consider that we lost 19 starters from last year and have dealt with several key injuries, it’s a credit to this group and how hard they have worked to get here,” Edgewood coach Bobby Carr. “This group was mostly backups last year they were just determined to keep the bar high.  I could pick two moms out of the stadium to coach that team the last two years and we’d still win it all. We have a lot of great players but they are so close (group). It starts with our assistant coaches who have done a great job.”

The Wildcats (13-0) face the same team they defeated in last year’s championship game. Clarke Prep (8-4) comes with a third seed rating but has been impressive in the two playoff games, including manhandling Edgewood’s biggest nemesis, Autauga Academy, in the first round.

“Two totally different styles,” Carr said when asked to assess the Gators.  “They are 3 yards and a cloud of dust and they want to keep our offense on the sidelines.

“Last year, we were down 9-0 right off the bat and we had to get off the deck and was able to turn that around pretty quickly. But they had only four seniors last year. This year they have 13 so that is an advantage.”

Edgewood worked its way through a perfect season despite losing what could be considered its most important player in quarterback Taylor Hawthorne.  The senior went down in the Autauga Academy game and was out for much of the second half of the season.

“We were drawing up plays in the dirt when he went out,” Carr said. “We were up against our biggest rival. We couldn’t rely on Superman to make plays. But the kids began to establish the run and Josh Crawford really took off.

Crawford was used as the “Wildcat” and totaled more than 2,000 total yards and 41 TDs for the season.

“A lot of folks knew josh played quarterback in junior high so it wasn’t that much of a change for him,” Carr said. “We were fortunate to get him (from Troy). As great of an athlete he is he is even a better person.”

Edgewood built team chemistry from the difficult stretch but kept its winning streak going, which has reached 43 games. That tied an AISA record. It could be broken on Friday.

Ironically, the streak hasn’t been discussed since August.

“We knew we could break it if we reached the championship and won it but otherwise, it hasn’t been brought up since we started practice,” Carr said. “We are focused on a championship. Setting the record would be a great accomplishment but it would be some what of a byproduct.”

Turnovers will be the key, which has been somewhat of an issue for the Wildcats this year. Carr believes Clarke Prep will be in “opportunistic mode” on Friday.

“They will try to play smashmouth football and try to create mistakes,” Carr said. “We want to spread it out and use space. We will try to control the ball but in a different way.”

The game is one of three Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium. The Class A championship features Restoration and Marengo Academy in the first game, followed by Edgewood and Clarke Prep at 3:30 p.m. The Class AAA game has Bessemer facing Monroe Academy at 7 p.m.

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