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Patriots clinch Region 1 championship

Bill Clinton sat in the White House, “Braveheart” was the best movie in the country and Michael Jordan was at the top of his game the last time the Pike Liberal Arts School Patriots accomplished what they did Friday night on the road.

The Patriots took down the Macon-East Knights 33-7 Friday night in a region battle that was just another shining defensive performance for the Patriots. But the victory, combined with the Fort Dale Eagles’ 25-6 victory over the Lee-Scott Warriors, clinched the AISA Class AAA, Region 1 championship for the Patriots. This is the Patriots first region crown since 1996.

“It feels great to win the region and these kids definitely deserve it,” PLAS head coach Steven Kilcrease said. “These guys have worked hard ever since the Monday after our loss in the playoffs last year.”

Kilcrease said this is one goal that the Patriots can now mark off their 2008 checklist. The victory also gives the Patriots homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. If they win in the first round, they will host the semi-finals and the championship game will be played at Troy University’s Movie Gallery Stadium if they win in the semis.

No matter how it happened, Kilcrease is just happy to come out on top.

“It was amazing how it all played out,” he said. “Everything just fell into place for us and it started last week with Glenwood beating Lee-Scott.”

Consecutive losses to Glenwood and Fort Dale dropped Lee-Scott from first to fourth in the region and bumped the Patriots into the top spot.

“It still hasn’t sunk in that we are region champs,” Kilcrease said. “It is exciting and the kids are very excited about what they have accomplished.”

But Kilcrease said his team would not take their eyes off the real prize.

“We will be spending all next week getting better because there were things we did not do well tonight and we need to work on them,” Kilcrease said. “We will work on things and get ready for Autauga.”

Senior tailback Jerel Foster cracked 200 yards for the second consecutive week with 201 yards and four touchdowns on 15 carries in the win, but Kilcrease was most impressed with a defensive performance.

“Nick McLaughlin had 16 tackles and an interception in an unbelievable effort,” he said. “And defensively we had a bend, but don’t break mentality out there.”

The game was a close contest for much of the first quarter, but Foster and the Patriots ripped the game open in the second quarter.

Foster opened the scoring with a 15-yard touchdown run and the Knights answered with a touchdown of their own, but on the next play Foster scampered 81 yards for pay dirt and he rumbled 53 yards and 13 yards in the second quarter to give PLAS a 27-7 advantage at the half.

The final score shows only seven points, but Kilcrease said the Knights were able to move the ball on the Patriots in the game.

“They moved the ball on us, but we made critical plays when we needed to and got the stops when we needed them the most,” Kilcrease said.

Macon-East controlled the clock in the third quarter and PLAS only ran three plays in the quarter.

McLaughlin capped the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter after a scoreless third.

The Patriots compiled 322 yards of total offense. Will Starling added 10 tackles, Justin McLaughlin had seven, Sam Carroll had an interception and Blake Thomas recovered a fumble.

The Patriots host AA Autauga Academy next Friday at Dwight Field at Delaney Kervin Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.