Guess who’s back?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 25, 2001

Pike County stops Aliceville’s repeat hopes on the road, 14-12


Sports Editor

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Aliceville’s Michael Craig lined up in shotgun formation for a potential game tying two-point conversion during the final minute of Friday’s 3A quarterfinal match-up between the Yellow Jackets and Pike County.

But instead of hiking the ball to Craig, the Aliceville center lateralled the ball back to a runner, who was waiting behind a wall of down linemen.

Unfortunately for the defending state champs, the Bulldogs’ defense arrived at the same time.

Pike County stuffed the two-point try and Nick Walker recovered Aliceville’s onsides kick a few seconds later as the Bulldogs won 14-12 to advance to the fourth round of the state playoffs.

For Bulldogs’ head coach Wayne Grant this marks his first trip to the semifinal round since 1989, when the Zion Chapel native led Pike County to its second consecutive Class 4A state title.

Grant’s known for building his teams around the run, but on Friday night it was Pike County’s passing which allowed the Bulldogs to take an eight point lead at halftime.

"They were playing us close," said Grant about the Aliceville defense. "When we started throwing it around some then they brought the corners in and we were able to loosen them up in the secondary."

Aliceville, ranked as the top defense in Class 3A (3.8 points per game), surrendered 14 points against the Bulldogs in the first two quarters. After Aliceville took a 6-0 lead on a 13-yard run by Clifford Bishop, Pike County answered with a drive of its own.

Inside the Aliceville 20-yard line, quarterback Chris Nickson broke a 15 yard run to goaline and carried the ball over from there. Walker’s extra point gave the Bulldogs a 7-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Nickson picked off a Taurus Somerville pass in the second quarter and returned it to the Aliceville 19-yard line. Two play’s later, the sophomore quarterback hit Walker on a fade pattern to the two-yard line. Walker fell into the endzone for the 17-yard touchdown catch with 35 seconds left before halftime.

Pike County took the opening kick of the second half and moved the ball into Yellow Jackets’ territory. Craig Flowers picked up 10 yards for a first down to the PCHS 40. A late hit on Nickson crossed the ball over to the Aliceville 41-yard line, but a holding call backed the Bulldogs up to its own 48. Nickson found Calvin Marshall for 14 yards on second and 20, but Joey Spikner was stopped behind the line on the next play.

Facing fourth and six at the AHS 36-yard line, that’s where Grant said he got "greedy."

The Bulldogs had already converted one fourth and long play in the second quarter – a 36 yard pass from Nickson to Walker. Up 7-6, that play put the ball at the Aliceville three-yard line, but

Pike County was stopped on four straight attempts at the goaline.

"I should have really punted it then," said Grant about the second half fourth down try. "I should have punted it and angled it toward the sideline, so we could start them inside the 10. But they didn’t get any points out of it."

Nickson was stopped behind the line, allowing Aliceville to take over at its own 42. Marcus Taylor started the drive by going 22 yards to the Bulldogs 36.

Taylor carried for another first down on third and seven, then Bishop went over left tackle on fourth and one, giving Aliceville a first down at the PCHS 14.

Pike County’s defense, however, didn’t break.

Walker broke through to tackle Taylor for a five yard loss. Anterrio Rodgers and Joe Copes combined to sack Somerville for a loss of three and then Nickson intercepted his second pass of the night at the Bulldogs’ own one-yard line.

The Bulldogs had to punt from the 27. After a 19 yard run by Donell Taylor and a 31 yard scamper by Bishop, Aliceville had the ball first and goal at the Bulldogs’ eight-yard line with under nine minutes to play.

Walker broke through again to tackle Taylor for a two-yard loss and then Spikner broke up a sure touchdown pass at the goaline. After an illegal participation penalty on Aliceville, the Yellow Jackets settled for a 28-yard field goal attempt. It was wide left.

PCHS was again unable to move the ball forcing Antwana McGuire to set up for a punt.

What happened after that, Aliceville head coach Jerry Dismukes disputes.

"It’s always bad when somebody in stripes decides the game," Dismukes told the Tuscaloosa News.

In the Aliceville coach’s view, McGuire’s punt was apparently blocked, but the Yellow Jackets’ defense was called for roughing the kicker. That resulted in an automatic first down for Pike County and gave the Bulldogs a chance to eat up some more of the fourth quarter with just under five minutes remaining. Aliceville was out of time outs.

McGuire punted the ball away with 3:03 left and Aliceville wasted no time in moving down the field. Starting from its own 33, the Yellow Jackets used a hook-and-lateral to pick up 44 yards to the Pike County 23-yard line. Sommerville found Fred Woods on third and eight for a first down and then hit Taylor over the middle for a nine-yard touchdown with 1:01 remaining in the game.

The ensuing two-point attempt by Aliceville, however, didn’t fool the Pike County defense.

"We dodged a few bullets in the second half," said Grant. "We made a few mistakes in the first half when we should have scored. We can’t afford to make those in the next two rounds."

Pike County will host Tarrant next week in Brundidge, with the winner of next week’s semifinal going on to Birmingham and the 3A state championship game. Hokes Bluff (11-2) plays at Colbert County (9-4) in the other 3A semifinal contest.