Autauga Academy has right plan for state championship win
By Tim Gayle
TROY – Autauga Academy coaches had devised a defensive strategy for Escambia Academy when the two teams met in late October, but the Generals jumped out to an early lead and never needed it.
On Friday, the strategy brought home the school’s fourth state championship.
The Generals (13-0) held the Cougars to 159 total yards, turning back a potential game-tying drive deep in Autauga territory to hold off Escambia 28-21 at Troy University’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“We had a scheme that we put in for them in the regular season that we didn’t play,” Autauga coach Kyle Glover said. “We had some success against them early and just saved what we had for tonight with the five-man front. It created some mismatches up front against them that we really needed tonight.”
The mismatch showed itself midway through the third quarter when Kainoa Gumapac returned a punt 52 yards to the Autauga 18. Trailing 21-14, the Cougars picked up six yards on three plays. On fourth down, Gumapac’s quick pass toward the end zone wasn’t close to anyone, turning the ball over on downs.
“That defense bowed its neck right there and really came up big for us,” Glover said. “So many penalties tonight, which was very uncharacteristic of us. A lot of yardage called back, a lot of field position changed in those penalties.”
The Generals followed up the red-zone stop with a 57-yard touchdown pass from Tripp Carr to Tanner Payton in the final seconds of the third quarter, putting Autauga firmly in control.
“We played a great game as far as playing hard and getting after it, but we just didn’t execute when we had the opportunity,” Escambia coach Hugh Fountain said. “When you get in the red zone and don’t execute, it’s not good for you.”
After Kendrick Rogers returned the opening kickoff 85 yards to give Autauga a 7-0 lead, Patrick McGhee countered with an 86-yard run on Escambia’s first play from scrimmage. The game settled into a defensive struggle from that point on, with the Cougars managing just 73 total yards the rest of the evening.
“They’ve got a good defense,” Fountain said. “They’ve got an outstanding football team, all the way around. It’s very difficult to get ready for what all they do on offense. Give them credit, they’re undefeated and they beat us twice. I feel like when a team beats you, they’re the best team and they beat us because they were the better team tonight.”
Glover’s Autauga team finished as the runner-up in the late 1990s, but he could finally celebrate after 13 weeks of being the hunted team with a roster loaded with talent.
“We got kids from seven different schools in our area,” Glover said. “What those kids did no coaching staff could have done. It was all about those kids coming together and being unselfish.
Escambia (8-5) participated in the first SECIS Kickoff Classic, extending their season to 15 weeks.
“The guys really persevered throughout the season and they found a way,” Fountain said. “Our seniors were state champions when they were sophomores and runners-up as seniors. That’s a lot to accomplish in a career.”