Three years ago, new Glenwood head coach Jason Gibson stood in the Gators’ gym and told his freshman class they would win a state championship come their senior season. Tonight, Gibson and the Gators have the chance to do just that.
Glenwood (9-3, 2-2) takes on Bessemer Academy (10-3, 3-1) at 7 p.m. CT in the third and final AISA state championship game in Troy’s Memorial Stadium. The game stands as a rematch between the two squads after Bessemer topped then No. 1 Glenwood 44-15 on Sep. 13.
Glenwood will have to extract revenge against Bessemer to win it all, but that would be nothing new for the Gators during this postseason run. After losing to Tuscaloosa in overtime in the regular season, the Gators got the upper hand in the semifinals and knocked the Knights out with a 17-7 victory.
Gibson had said in the days prior to the showdown with Tuscaloosa that he felt his team was peaking at the right time. Based on the squad’s performance, his opinion was on point.
“We were thoroughly prepared. From the second we left to the bus ride, everything we did was prepared and they'll tell you that,” Gibson said. “I thought it was one of the better games we'd had all year long, and Macon-East to be honest with you. Both of them back-to-back as a staff and as players, the kids knew what they were doing.
“They believed in what they were doing. They executed. They did it. They performed well, and they made plays when they needed to make plays.”
The victory featured another strong showing by running back Daryl Monn, who ended the evening with 10 carries for 55 yards and both of the team’s touchdowns. He also contributed at defensive back for the Gators, tallying 10 tackles for the second-highest total behind BJ Snellgrove.
Monn, who started his high school career at Chattahoochee County in Georgia, has provided plays when the Gators needed it throughout the fall.
“He's tough. His speed is unmatched. There's not many guys who can run with him,” Gibson said. “He's so strong — I think he squats over 500 pounds. The biggest play to me Friday night was when they scored to go up 7-3, and he takes the kickoff return back to like the 30 or something. That was a huge play in the game.
“He's a huge factor. He's a hard person to play. I wouldn't want to play against him.”
Last Friday’s win was the realization of a season-long goal of gaining “One more yard,” referring to how the Gators lost to Bessemer in overtime in the semis last season. Now, the Gators have to take down the Rebels in order to win it all.
Gibson commended the Rebels for having good players across the board, adding that the defense is stellar and the offense is clicking at the right time. He pointed to Joshua McMillon, PJ McDonald and Jarvis Dancy as players to watch on offense as well as defensive end Lebbeus Overton, the freshman Gibson deemed “a man-child.”
In Gibson’s opinion, the key for Glenwood tonight is forcing turnovers. The Gators’ defense has been opportunistic through its last five games, forcing 17 turnovers in those games. Gibson also emphasized converting those turnovers into points to make the Rebels pay for their mistakes.
Gibson began his tenure at Glenwood by promising the underclassmen they would be state champions soon enough. Even with the Gators now on the verge of fulfilling that promise, Gibson said it really hasn’t sunk in yet.
“I really haven't thought that far, to be honest. That's something to think about on Monday,” Gibson said. “They've done exactly what they set out to do. It would mean a lot for the community. I think it would mean to the most about the community. It's always about Glenwood and it's always about the community. It's never about one individual or the coach.
“I'll come and go, and players will come and go. It's about this school.”