Patriots take Dixie, 40-28

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Sports Writer

LOUISVILLE – The 2000 football season at Pike Liberal Arts School hasn’t provided too many happy Friday nights. A tough schedule and inconsistent play had lead the Patriots to a 1-8 record coming into the season finale with rival Dixie Academy. But there is something that brings the best out of a team when playing an arch-rival in their home stadium. Pike Liberal Arts School found that something and ran with it.

Behind an offense that erupted for 376 yards and scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, PLAS

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and pulled off a thrilling upset, a 40-28, come-from-behind victory over Dixie Academy Friday at the Snake Pit.

"This was a big win," PLAS head coach Dwight Ward. "We hadn’t beat them in four years, the kids played their heart out tonight."

Layton Sanders and Druid Conrad lead the Patriot charge. Sanders completed eight of 15 passes for 232 yards and four touchdowns, while Conrad caught five passes for 194 yards and three scores.

Sanders didn’t down play the win.

"This was real big. Dixie is our rival. They beat us four years in a row and we finally stepped up and beat them," Sanders said.

"We wanted to win one for coach," Conrad added. "We stepped up and did it."

Dixie wasted little time asserting their offense. After forcing a Patriot punt, Steven Sowell took the first play from scrimmage 43 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

The Patriots fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Dixie recovered at the PLAS 19. But the Patriot defense stiffened, capped with a sack by Michael Uptain and Richard Long on third and 17, forcing a field goal attempt that would come up short.

The Rebels started the second quarter offensively, the same as the first. Sowell sprinted 76 yards to the endzone on the first play and the Patriots faced a 13-0 deficit.

An offensive explosion by both offenses highlighted the last three minutes of the second quarter. After a Dixie punt, Sanders hit Conrad with a 48 yard scoring strike on the first play of the drive and PLAS cut the lead to 13-6.

The Rebels responded with their own aerial assault. A 29 yard kickoff return by Dustin Foster placed Dixie at their own 46. Zak Knight connected with Chris Sheppard for 24 yards and a first down early in the drive, and on fourth and 17 from the PLAS 26, Knight hooked up with Foster in the endzone for a 20-6 lead with :38 seconds remaining in the first half.

The 38 seconds was plenty of time for the Patriots. After an incomplete pass, Conrad took a screen pass from Sanders, received a great block from Joey Stallings and raced 75 yards for a touchdown with :09 seconds to go. The two point conversion failed and PLAS trailed 20-12, but had the momentum at the half.

The Patriots would score four times in the second half, the biggest coming on a 63 yard touchdown pass from Sanders to Conrad with 8:48 left in the game to cut the lead to 28-26.

"It was an out-and-up and corner bit," Conrad said. "I got behind him and Layton made a nice throw."

The touchdown came after a five play, 45 yard scoring march by the Rebels, set up by a Sander’s interception.

Sanders wanted redemption after the interception.

"I just wanted to come back strong on the next possession. The defense stepped up and stopped them late and we were able to get the ball and score.

Ward praised the efforts of his quarterback.

"Layton threw the ball well. He had a little lapse there in the fourth quarter, but he came back with a strong effort."

The go-ahead score came with 5:08 remaining in the game on a 35 yard run up the middle by Stallings. Sanders scampered into the endzone for the two point conversion and a 34-28 lead. The Patriots would add another score late for the final margin.

"We gave up too much early," Ward said. "I thought our conditioning was a big difference. I think our tough schedule made us tougher at the end too."

"We couldn’t run the ball early so we had to throw. We mixed it up pretty well after that. I thought we ran and threw the ball well overall."

Ward thinks the Patriots can take a lot of positives into next year, especially with the majority of his team coming back in 2001.

"The good thing is we only lose four seniors from this team. Hopefully, the young kids learned some things to take into next year."