Chambers Academy will play in its fifth consecutive state title game at noon today, but the Rebels are just as excited for this year’s matchup with Southern Academy as any of the previous games.
If there’s any question regarding how motivated the Rebels are, just ask senior linebacker Braxton Allen about the lead-up to the big moment.
“I couldn’t sleep last night. I really couldn’t,” Braxton said. “I was just thinking about it. I really couldn’t sleep. We’ve been here five years in a row, and it’s still crazy every time. We’ll get it straight in practice coming up, and we’ll just do what we need to do and try to execute on Friday.”
Chambers (11-1, 4-0) takes on Southern (9-1, 3-1) in the first of three AISA state championship games in Troy’s Memorial Stadium on Friday. The showdown pits the two teams against each other again after squaring off back on Sep. 20 in a game Chambers won 42-21.
The Rebels had a scare in the first round of the playoffs, but that was not the case against Wilcox Academy in the Class A semifinals. Chambers ran all over the Wildcats in the semifinals for the second straight season, as quarterback Payton Allen rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns and threw for two more scores in a 36-13 victory.
“First and foremost, our kids played lights out. We had a fabulous week of practice. I felt like we had that fire about us. We kind of slept-walked through the first week, and it liked to have got us. It didn’t. The thing about almost is almost really don’t matter because you can’t measure almost,” Chambers head coach Jason Allen said. “I was really proud. It was a line-of-scrimmage game, and we dominated them up front. That’s how you win football games at any level.”
The Rebels now stand one win away from their second consecutive state championship. Standing in their way is a team they know all too well.
Coach Allen said it’s a challenge to play the same team twice in one season, adding that there are lessons from the first matchup with Southern that can be beneficial in preparing for this contest. He credited the Cougars for being able to block and tackle well, which is crucial for any team that is still in contention this time of year.
The longtime Rebels head coach pointed to Southern defensive linemen Eli Richey and Hayden Campbell as well as fullback/linebacker Brandon Henry as players that Chambers had to pay attention to come game time.
As far as the keys to beating Southern for a second time, Coach Allen stressed taking care of the football, asserting dominance up front defensively and offensively on the line of scrimmage and cutting out any mistakes.
Coach Allen lauded the achievements of the Rebels’ senior class, which has a 48-3 record over the last four years. Winning double-digit games and ending the year in Troy may seem commonplace to the Chambers’ faithful at this point, but he stressed how important it was for everyone involved to cherish this opportunity.
“(The senior class) is the greatest class in the history of our school no doubt, and it would mean everything to the community of LaFayette and Chambers Academy (to win again). I’m just really proud of what our kids have accomplished,” Coach Allen said. “It’s almost becoming the same old news, but you have to cherish this every time. These kinds of things don’t happen.”
Winning has undoubtedly become second nature within the Rebels’ football program. Having said that, taking home another state championship will be just as special as it was when Chambers won the first one last November.
“It would just be like a dream, man. It would be a straight-up dream,” Braxton said. “It’s hard to even put into words what it would mean. You can’t describe that kind of stuff. We’ve got to do it.”