Story by Griffin Pritchard | Publisher
Photos courtesy of Clarke Preparatory School and Patrician Academy
CENTRAL ALABAMA SCOREBOARD OFFICE – It’s been 17 long years since Clarke Prep brought an AISA State Championship home to Grove Hill and to break that drought the Gators are going to have to go through the hottest team in the league: Patrician Academy. The Gators and the Saints are scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon in the middle match-up of the Alabama Independent School Association’s Tripleheader Championship at Cramton bowl in Montgomery.
The Gators (9-3) are outscoring their opponents 373-248 and finished second in the Region 2 standings behind unbeaten Patrician. Clarke Prep Football Coach Ashley Carlisle likes his bunch’s chances in the rematch from last month.
“They beat us 48-7 in the regular season, but it’s the state championship game so records and scores can be thrown out,” said Carlisle. “Sometimes even though a team has beat you before it can be a disadvantage, I can change whatever I want but (the kids) can’t because of the first game. We weren’t supposed to be here. Our kids know their kids and have played against them from Pee Wee up. We’re playing with house money so there’s no real pressure and we are going to let it ride.”
Clarke Prep’s regular season losses, aside from the Saints, are to Jackson and Lowndes academies. Those two schools are meeting for the Class A championship at 1 p.m.
To advance to the final, Clarke Prep knocked off Chambers 24-21 after playing from behind most of the night. After a kickoff return for a touchdown knotted the game at 7-7 Connor Bumpers – who threw for 223 yards on 11 completions – accounted for back-to-back Gators touchdowns, throwing for one and then rushing for a second. The trio of scores put Clarke Prep up 21-7. A field goal from 36 yards out moved the mark to 24-14 to end the first half.
Chambers threatened late but were turned away on a fourth-and-three led by Gators defenders Tyler Moore and James Browder. The two converged on the ball carrier ending the play and the playoff run of the Rebels.
Trace Phillips ran for 63 yards on 14 carries.
Carlisle: “We are by far playing our best football of the season. It hasn’t been an individual thing in the playoffs, it’s been a total team effort. So many big plays have gotten us to where we are and have come from a lot of different people.”
Trace Strickland (WR/DB), Jones Skipper (RB/LB), Phillips (RB/LB), James Browder (OL/DL) are a few of the players highlighted by the coach.
“They have done a tremendous job,” said Carlisle. “It really has been an all-year thing with them.”
Big plays and sound defense are what’s needed for the No. 8 Gators to topple the top-ranked Saints.
In their first meeting this season, Patrician put up 429 yards of offense thanks to their ground game. The Saints ran for 300 plus on the legs of Cecil Perry (167 yards and 2 touchdowns), Carson Coody (71 yards and 2 touchdowns), Michael Kittrell (48 yards and a score on his only carry) and quarterback Tate Boykin (45 yards and a score on nine carries). Against Edgewood in the semifinal the Saints had their way with the Wildcats, amassing 494 yards of total offense. Boykin threw for 179 yards and two scores on just four completions and Coody ran for 192 yards and two scores on 20 carries. Jay Lindsey inserted himself into the conversation, reeling in three of those passes for 124 yards and a score. Matthew Mize had the other completion; scoring on a 55-yard dime.
Kickoff for Thursday’s Class AA Championship game is scheduled for 4 p.m., and will follow the Class A Championship.
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