It was one thing for Auburn High to pull the biggest upset of the Class 7A state playoffs Friday by traveling to Mobile and beating McGill-Toolen. It was quite another to do it in the fashion the Tigers did.
Make no mistake about it: The Tigers completely dominated the previously undefeated Yellow Jackets in the 26-0 victory. Auburn running back Aaron Diggs took 42 carries for 200 yards and three touchdowns, and the stingy Tigers’ defense only gave up 98 yards and six first downs to advance to the state semifinals for the first time since the squad played for the Class 6A championship in 2013.
“I’m proud of the kids. We played a consistent four quarters tonight,” Auburn High head coach Adam Winegarden said. “Coach (Patrick Plott) I think is the top defensive coordinator in the state of Alabama. He does a great job. I thought we established the line of scrimmage and forced them into some long-yardage downs.”
Winegarden had said in the lead-up to Friday’s game that he felt his team was still improving at this point in the season. Thanks to those strides and stellar play, all Auburn needs to do now is extract revenge on Central-Phenix City to head to the Class 7A state championship game.
After a bizarre Opelika fumble set St. Paul’s up to take a two-possession lead before halftime Friday, the Bulldogs desperately needed someone to make a play. Senior safety Jaylen Stinson then came through for his team just as he has done throughout his career.
Stinson made the play that may have changed the course of the game, blocking a field goal before scooping it up and returning it 70 yards for a score. Opelika missed the ensuing extra point to go into the break trailing 7-6, but that didn’t mean the Purdue commit’s changed the outlook for both sides.
After Stinson’s special-teams score, the second half was all Opelika and not enough St. Paul’s. The Bulldogs’ defense buckled down and thwarted what had been a formidable Saints’ rushing attack, which left St. Paul’s only able to tack on a field goal in the game’s final two quarters. The Opelika offense, meanwhile, established two long drives that not only ended in touchdowns but also drained valuable time to help Opelika take a 20-10 victory.
Stinson had a stellar night defensively with 10 tackles and four pass-break ups, but it was his touchdown that won’t soon be forgotten.
“It was huge. You go down from 7-0 and having to score when you come out immediately to Jaylen stealing six points for us. It put pressure on them now,” Opelika head coach Erik Speakman said. “It was basically six points our offense doesn’t have to score. It was hidden yardage and hidden points. They go from three points and going up 10-0, and now it’s a 7-6 game.”
This Friday could be a special one for the Lanett Panthers, and not just because a win would move the team on to the state semifinals.
Senior quarterback Kristian Story is closing in on history for the Panthers, as he stands one touchdown away from tying former Pinson Valley quarterback Bo Nix’s AHSAA record for touchdowns in a career. Story stands at 160 career touchdowns after rushing for four touchdowns and throwing one touchdown in the Panthers’ 44-6 victory over Elba.
Lanett’s main concern for Friday is winning and moving on, but that doesn’t mean Story isn’t eager to re-write the record books if he gets the chance.
“If I get the record and I’m scoring more touchdowns, I know we’re winning as well. The way our defense has been playing, if we score we’re going to win. It means a lot to me,” Story said. “I see it’s in reach, and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I just have to get there.”
Reeltown rolls on
The Reeltown Rebels proved during the regular season that they were among Class 2A’s top teams. As the team gets ready for its third playoff game, it’s evident that is still the case.
Reeltown took care of J.U. Blacksher on the road Friday night, taking down the nine-win Bulldogs 30-20. Reeltown running back Cameron Faison put together another stellar game for the Rebels, rushing for over 100 yards, returning an interception for a 44-yard touchdown and making a 36-yard reception on a 4th-and-17 in the victory.
Reeltown returns home this week to face G.W. Long with a semifinals berth on the line. The Rebels are hoping to win their first state title since 2009, and if Faison and his teammates can continue playing like they did against the Bulldogs, they could very well make it happen.
For all the marbles
If you’re a fan of AISA football in the Opelika-Auburn area, then there will be no better place to be this Friday than Troy’s Memorial Stadium.
Two local teams have a shot at walking away as state champions this week, as Class A’s Chambers Academy and Class AAA’s Glenwood will be playing in their classification’s state title game. Chambers will take on Southern Academy at noon CT, while Glenwood will face Bessemer at 7 p.m.
Both games are rematches of regular-season showdowns, as Chambers beat Southern 42-21 on Sep. 20 and Bessemer beat Glenwood 44-15. A victory for Chambers gives the program its second straight state championship, while a win for Glenwood would mean the program’s first title since 1992.
Glenwood and Chambers have endured ups and downs throughout 2019 but now stand one win away from championships. For their coaches, this week is just about preparing like always and then enjoying the moment come Friday.
“When we were going into games in the playoffs it’s not like David and Goliath. We’re not David — we’re Goliath. That was the message I was trying to tell our kids,” Glenwood coach Jason Gibson said. “It’s to just have the mentality that you’re supposed to be here. You’ve earned it. You’ve worked just as hard as anybody else. It’s not a Cinderella story.”
“I’m really proud of these kids. I know we’re going to have a great week of preparation,” Chambers Academy head coach Jason Allen said. “I know our kids have had this experience. They know what the week is like. I think that really plays to our advantage. They understand. I don’t think we’ll get too worked up during the week. We’ll pace ourselves and hopefully be ready to play Friday at 12.”