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Patriots run through Rebels

Steven Kilcrease was worried about how much the No. 9 Pike Liberal Arts Patriots would be able to run on the No. 3 Bessemer Rebels. Jerel Foster eased the mind of his head coach Friday night by rushing for 268 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries in the Patriots’ 40-28 upset of the defending AAA state champs.

“Normally Bessemer has that intimidation factor working before the game starts, but our guys were never intimidated and we ran it right at them,” Kilcrease said. “We scored early and then Corey (Goodson) had a big hit on the ensuing kickoff and we had the momentum. We went into the game thinking we would not be able to run the football, but we were able to move it down the field on runs and short screen passes.”

Foster got things started with a 22-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The PAT was missed and PLAS (7-1) held a 6-0 lead. The Pike defense held and quarterback Trey Walters punched it in from one yard out for a 13-0 lead after a true PAT.

Pike took an early 21-0 lead in the first quarter after Nick McLaughlin intercepted a Garrett Pinciotti pass and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown. Foster converted the two-point conversion for the 21-0 advantage.

Pinciotti was 23-of-50 on the night for 268 yards through the air.

McLaughlin had two interceptions and eight tackles in the game.

“Our secondary did a great job all game,” Kilcrease said. “The big thing was we did not allow any big plays.”

Bessemer (6-2) scored twice in the second quarter on a 21-yard TD pass and a six-yard TD run to cut the lead to 21-14, but Foster widened that margin on a 34-yard screen pass from Walters right before the end of the first half.

“Jerel’s touchdown catch on the screen was one of the most unbelievable plays I have ever seen,” Kilcrease said. “The way he made those guys miss was great.”

The only score of the third quarter was a 41-yard touchdown run from Foster to increase the Pike lead to 34-14 heading into the fourth quarter.

Bessemer cut the lead to 34-20, but Foster and the Patriots answered with a long drive for a score. Foster rushed 60-plus yards to the 1-yard line and Walters punched in his second rushing TD of the game for a 40-20 score.

Walters was also 2-of-4 passing for 44 yards and one TD.

Bessemer added another TD and two-point conversion to trim the lead to 12, but McLaughlin’s second interception of the evening sealed the win for Pike.

“I told our guys after the game that they showed a lot of character by bouncing back like this after last week’s loss to Lee-Scott,” Kilcrease said. “And who it was that we beat just made it that much more special. This was a huge win for our football program.”

Goodson again led the Patriots in tackles with 11 and Bradley Floyd and Will Starling each added seven tackles.

The Patriots hit the road for their final region game next week. They square off with Macon-East in Cecil. If the Patriots win and the Fort Dale Eagles take down Lee-Scott the Patriots will be AISA Class AAA, Region 1 champs. Kickoff from Cecil is a 7 p.m.