WEEK 10 RECAP: Macon East, Autauga advance in AISA playoffs
Macon East Academy 38, Clarke Prep 34
Tucker Neven and Brock Taunton connected three times in the final 13 minutes, with quarterback Neven hitting his favorite receiver for 73 yards and a touchdown and 32 yards and a touchdown to rally Macon East Academy to a 38-34 victory over Clarke Prep in the first round of the AISA Class AA playoffs on Friday night.
The final touchdown, to an uncovered Taunton running alone down the right sideline, provided the game-winning points with 4:18 remaining.
“It was just one of those plays that we drew up on the side right here,” Taunton said. “We just worked our magic.”
“I stepped up in the pocket and rolled out,” Neven said. “The linebacker came for me and nobody was covering Brock. I was looking for Brock pre-snap and I saw his guy coming for me.”
Macon East (10-1), winning its first playoff game since 2007, will face Escambia (10-1) next Friday night at home for the right to advance to the Class AA championship game. Escambia crushed Cornerstone 55-0 in the Cougars’ first-round game.
“I think they believe they can win,” Macon East coach Glynn Lott said of his players. “We’re playing with house money right now. We’re on the other side of the stick. Everybody thought we should win tonight because Clarke Prep was 3-7, but they played probably the best schedule in the state this year. So next week everybody will think Escambia will win so we can just play and throw it up and see what happens.”
Clarke Prep ends the season at 3-8, losing in the first round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Gators faced nine playoff teams this season.
“They had a great game plan early,” Lott said. “They had us confused a little bit in the first half. But we stress special teams and JC (Ceman) and Brock are both weapons when they get it. The biggest thing that scares you is when (Ceman) gets put out for getting in a pile and doing whatever.”
In a game full of big plays, Mike Murry ran 69 yards on only his second carry of the night to give Macon East a 20-14 halftime lead, then Ceman ran down a botched kickoff and returned it 83 yards for a touchdown and a 26-21 lead after Clarke Prep had taken its first lead of the game moments earlier.
From there, it was the Gators’ brawn versus the Knights’ big-play tandem of Neven and Taunton.
“They pretty much tell me what’s open,” Lott said. “They know the offense well. We pretty much run the same stuff they ran at other places and some of their plays they’ve done at different places we’ve shared. They’re all cupball players. They’ve all played on the sidelines. I remember Brock when he was here the first time and he was in the cupball game all night long. That’s basically what they’re doing, they’re just playing in space.”
Taunton, Neven and Ceman all went to school initially at Macon East Academy before transferring to other schools. They were reunited this season in helping the football Knights to their first region title since 2001.
“We’ve been doing this since we were about 6, going to elementary school together,” Neven said, “and going up through high school.”
Taunton had transferred to Edgewood, then Wetumpka before returning to Macon. Ceman also went to Edgewood, then Park Crossing, before returning to Macon and Neven went to Fort Dale, then Park Crossing before coming back to Macon.
After Ceman’s kickoff return, Clarke Prep answered with a pair of touchdowns to take a 34-26 lead. Neven and Taunton teamed up for a pair of touchdowns to rally the Knights, using the long touchdown pass to pull within two, then fooling the Gators with a sideline route for a 29-yard gain before the game winner.
Autauga (11-0) will remain home next week to face Lakeside (7-3), a 35-34 winner over Jackson. Kingwood Christian ends the season at 1-10.
The Generals rested their starters for most of the contest. Tripp Carr threw just two passes, completing both for touchdowns. James Woods had one of the receptions for 35 yards and Dominique Webster had the other one on a 24-yard scoring reception.
Defensively, Bailey Taylor led the Generals with seven tackles. Jakari Howard had five tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, while Jalen Morrow had five tackles and Logan Gilmore had four.
For first-year coach Bobby Carr, the victory over Kingwood Christian is the 19th consecutive playoff victory and his 82nd straight win as a head coach, dating back to a 2010 loss to Glenwood while he was the head coach at Edgewood.
Patrician Academy 28, Lowndes Academy 20
Patrician (7-4) will play host to Crenshaw Christian (8-3) in the semifinals next week.
Lowndes (5-5) went into the game shorthanded after starting quarterback Mason McCurdy suffered an ankle injury in practice on Wednesday, forcing Johnson to move back to quarterback. The senior scored the Rebels’ final touchdown and completed 3 of 12 passes for 36 yards to go along with his 14 carries. He also led the defense with six tackles.
Janes had two touchdowns on his nine carries, scoring Lowndes’ first touchdown to tie the game at 7-7, then adding a second score on a 33-yard run to pull within 14-13. The two-point conversion following the second touchdown failed and the Saints scored again for a 21-13 halftime lead.
Lowndes recovered the onside kick to start the second half, but turned the ball over on downs four plays later. Patrician drove down and scored for a 28-13 lead before Johnson’s touchdown.
Montgomery Catholic 31, Marbury 7
The Knights (9-1) will face Sipsey Valley in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs next week at home. Marbury (4-6) will make its first trip to the playoffs since 2008 when the Bulldogs travel to Vigor next week.
Catholic’s offense sputtered and turned the ball over on downs twice before Tyler Price finally found the end zone on a 6-yard run for a 14-0 halftime lead.
The Knights threatened early in the third quarter but had to settle for a field goal by Rocky Philipou.
Early in the fourth quarter Daryl Gibson struck twice, first with a 47-yard touchdown dash, then with a 16-yard run. Gibson ended the game with 88 rushing yards. Marbury scored with less than a minute remaining.
On defense C.J. Person had 8 tackles and Parker Dennis blocked a punt for Catholic.
Swindle threw a touchdown pass to Conner Bradford for the Mustangs’ first score after they fell behind early and added a 5-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion run to close out the scoring.
After Trey Duncan scored on an 11-yard run to tie the game, Daniels added scoring runs of 3 and 4 yards to put the Mustangs in front.
Highland Home (7-3) will travel to Marengo next week in the first round of the Class 1A state playoffs, while Prattville Christian (3-7) will travel to Evergreen to play Hillcrest in a first-round game.
Roberson threw touchdown passes of 9 yards to Brandon Strength and 24 yards to Noah Phillips and also scored on touchdown runs of 10, 44 and 53 yards. K.J. Hall, who returned a PCA fumble 40 yards for a score, added touchdown runs of 40, 42 and 91 yards in the second half.
Rod McLemore added another score on an interception return for a touchdown.
Prattville Christian’s Michael McCarthy scored twice in the first half, the first on an interception return and then on a 47-yard run. Sterling Berry scored on a 31-yard dash in the first half and Preston Cox added a 1-yard plunge for the Panthers.
Berry scored again in the second half on a 9-yard run and Brandon Briggs added a 14-yard run for a touchdown.
Sidney Lanier 34, Prattville 3
Lanier (9-1), posting their best record since 2000, will play Paul Bryant in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs next Thursday at Cramton Bowl. The Poets will be seeking their first playoff win since 2006 in their first-ever meeting with the Stampede.
Prattville ends the season at 3-6.
Rodriques Ellington started the scoring with a 68-yard sprint to the end zone following aa bubble screen from Foster. Jacory Merritt added a 2-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 halftime lead before Foster came back with touchdown passes of 19 yards to Ellington and 14 yards to Delancey Tolliver.
Foster scrambled away from pressure and scored on a 7-yard run three minutes into the fourth quarter for a 34-0 lead.