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Autauga outlasts Escambia in AISA showdown

Story by Griffin Pritchard | Publisher

Photos by Thomas Stabler | CAScoreboard Photographer

AUTAUGA ACADEMY – Friday’s showdown between the AISA’s best and brightest didn’t shy away from the intensity or drama. No. 2 Autauga Academy defeated No. 1 Escambia 31-17 to firm up the lead in the region and (with only a handful of games remaining) put a black and gold star on home field for the playoffs.

“We had a great gameplan and brought the intensity and executed,” said Autauga’s Anden Hilyer after the game.

The Generals struck first on a 28-yard pass from quarterback Robert Rose to the heavily recruited Josh Palmer. With the kick, the Generals went up 7-0.  Rose finished the game with 134 yards passing and threw two more touchdowns.

Escambia – still in the first – answered when Landon Sims faked a handoff to Bubba Nettles and broke through the Generals defense on a 36-yard sprint to the end zone. Sims – now the kicker – split the uprights to tie the game.

“We lean on (Sims) and Bubba (Nettles) and our offensive line a lot,” said Hugh Fountain, coach of the Escambia Academy Cougars. “But I think if you go and look at the film of this game – you’re going to see a lot of plays left on the field. And I don’t know if we didn’t see them, or they did something that prevented us or we just didn’t make them. But that’s going to be the difference in the game. But it was a tough and physical game like we knew it was going to be.”

Rose – to start the second quarter – connected with Palmer again, this time from 9-yards out for the touchdown. The kick flew true and Autauga pushed ahead 14-7.

The Sims-led Cougars moved the ball downfield, capping their drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass. The extra point became an adventure: A personal foul penalty moved the ball back and then a roughing the kicker penalty moved the ball back within range. With all that settled, Sims split the uprights on 25-yard point after.

For the second time, the game was gridlocked.

Autauga pushed ahead with 52.3 left before the intermission, scoring on a 41-yard field goal.

The Generals maintained the 17-14 lead throughout the third quarter and into the fourth.

Sims capped a drive that started at the 50 after back-to-back unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and an ejection following a controversial blindside hit.

“Safety has got to come first and that was the second time Josh Palmer was blindsided. Not only should it have been a penalty, but there should have been an ejection. But neither time was a flag thrown,” said Bobby Carr, who was asked to leave the game following the Palmer hit. “People can say whatever they want about me, but at the end of the day my players are like my family and I’m always going to take up for them.”

With the fallout of that play seemingly settled, the Generals were flagged for another two personal foul penalties.

Autauga Academy – with their backs against the wall – held and forced the Cougars to settle for a field goal. Sims split the uprights from 39 yards to tie the game at 17-17.

Carr: “We schemed a little more than we have this season but they are extremely well coached. It worked. We had some things that they hadn’t seen and they had some things we hadn’t.”

The game was decided in the last five minutes. Rose tossed his third touchdown pass of the night – a 53 yard dime to put the Generals up 24-17. They clinched the game on a 38-yard run by Karl Ligon (19 carries for 219 yards).

Fountain: “We just went to sleep on those two touchdowns and that’s the ball game right there.”

The win put the Generals in position to claim the region championship and host playoff games until (should they reach it) the state championship game in late November.

Founder/Publisher of Central Alabama Scoreboard. Former sportsguy, managing editor, currently working for the City of Tallassee as a Public Information Specialist and grant writer.

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