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SECIS CLASSIC: Autauga holds off Valwood; Escambia Academy tops FBS

Autauga Academy running back Djay Gardner rushes through the Valwood defense in the SECIS Classic on Saturday. (Photo by Drew Gayle)

By Tim Gayle
RRS Correspondent
(August 13, 2017)

After holding Valwood School to minus-15 total yards and without a first down in the first half, no one could have expected Autauga Academy to maintain the same level of intensity in the second half of Saturday’s meeting in the second annual Southeastern Commission of Independent Schools’ Kickoff Classic at Cramton Bowl.

The Generals came out flat in the third quarter and the Valiants took advantage of it, scoring a pair of quick touchdowns to pull back into the contest before the Generals answered with a late touchdown to secure a 38-29 victory to extend their winning streak to 14 games.

“I thought defensively we played really well in the first half,” said Autauga coach Bobby Carr, who was an offensive coordinator on last year’s state championship team before taking over as head coach this year. “We just kind of got lackadaisical but hat’s off to those guys. Their kids responded to whatever challenges their coaches put in front of them.”

The event, pitting a collection of schools from the Alabama Independent School Association, the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, the Georgia Independent School Association and the South Carolina Independent School Association, saw Autauga storm out to a 26-3 halftime lead before Valwood quarterback Caleb Burns threw a pair of touchdown passes on the Valiants’ first two possessions of the second half to pull within 26-17.

“I think we just came out and started playing ball, like we know we can,” Valwood coach Ashley Henderson said. “Maybe we were a little intimidated. They’ve got 66 kids, 10th through 12th grade, we’ve got 42. But we came out and laid it on the line in the second half and that’s who we can be.”

The Valiants were still hanging around a quarter later when Tripp Carr threw his third touchdown pass of the game, an underthrown pass that Kendrick Rogers turned into a 57-yard scoring play that finally secured the victory.

“Big-time players step up in big-time moments and Kendrick is as good as it gets,” Carr said.

“(Rogers) is a good ballplayer and when you don’t cover him, bad things happen to your team,” Henderson said. “Lesson learned.”

Escambia Academy races past First Baptist School (S.C.)

He was the third-string tailback, Escambia Academy coach Hugh Fountain insisted. Perhaps that’s why First Baptist coach Johnny Waters believes the Cougars are better than the team that reached the state finals in 2016.

Fred Flavors, relegated to playing defense and being a return specialist in the first half, broke open a tight game with a 38-yard scoring reception from Jabe Dawe on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, then added a 13-yard scoring run on the Cougars’ next possession as Escambia defeated First Baptist of Charleston, S.C., 38-10 in the second annual Southeastern Commission of Independent Schools’ Kickoff Classic at Cramton Bowl on Saturday night.

“We just didn’t play well,” Waters said, “but this (Escambia) is a good ballclub. Take nothing away from them. They’re stronger than they were last year, I thought.”

The event, pitting a collection of schools from the Alabama Independent School Association, the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, the Georgia Independent School Association and the South Carolina Independent School Association, closed out six games over the weekend with a rematch of the defending SCISA state champions and an AISA team that reached the Class AA state finals after beating the Hurricanes 35-12 a year ago.

The 2016 game hinged on a pair of huge interceptions by Escambia defensive lineman Trae Lee. This year’s game featured Dawe, the new starter at quarterback who wasn’t spectacular but was certainly effective in throwing three touchdown passes. But the story, once again, was a defense that held First Baptist to 71 rushing yards and heralded runner Michel Dukes to 68 yards on 20 carries, which is probably why Waters is so sure Escambia is improved.

“I don’t know about that,” Fountain said. “A lot of people forget we didn’t have but six seniors last year. When you lose Chris Brown and Trae Lee and my quarterback, everybody thinks you’re losing a lot of guys. That’s three people. We knew we’d be a pretty tough team because we’ve got all of our skill people back. I think they focused on beating us in this game. Last year I don’t think they did. He wanted to prove how physically tough they are.”

The Cougars started the game with four possessions in First Baptist territory, their average starting point at the Hurricane 26-yard line.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Waters said. “We can’t make mistakes against a team like that. We were backed up the whole first half. But that team just beat us. I hope we take it as a learning experience like last year.”

Brookwood ( ) handles Marshall Academy (Miss)

Brookwood weathered a first-quarter outburst from Marshall, rebounding with 38 unanswered points to take a 45-29 win over the Patriots in the second annual Southeastern Commission of Independent School’s Kickoff Classic at Cramton Bowl on Saturday night.

Marshall scored on the game’s first play from scrimmage on a 60-yard pass from Eli Pearson to Drayton Potts and added another score on its sixth play from scrimmage with a 2-yard run by Pearson for a 13-0 lead, but the rest of the game belonged to Brookwood as the Warriors rolled up 425 total yards to overcome four interceptions and 93 yards in penalties.

“They got up on us early but I had told our team in the locker room to expect some mistakes early, it’s game one, and it’s really about how you respond,” Brookwood coach Shane Boggs said. “When it was 13-0 and raining like crazy, it wasn’t looking pretty but our guys hung in there, showed some resilience and we started making some plays.

“We scripted 24 different players to play tonight, which is unheard of for a school our size. I think you saw it take its toll (on Marshall) in the second quarter and wore them down a little bit.”


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