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Patriots pound Marengo

It was a knock down, drag out battle on the gridiron, but the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots ran through the Marengo Longhorns for a 28-12 victory Friday night at Delaney Kervin Stadium in the opening round of the AISA Class AAA state playoffs.

Jerel Foster and Trey Walters combined to rush for 311 of the team’s 316 yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns apiece in the win.

“Relieved to have a win is the best way to explain how I feel,” PLAS head coach Steven Kilcrease said. “Marengo had a good game plan and they showed us some wrinkles we have not seen before. But our intensity was great all night and our line found ways to create holes. They were not big holes, but they were just enough.”

The Patriots (10-1) effectively used Foster as a diversion in the game, but eventually Foster unloaded on the Longhorns and compiled 231 yards rushing on 21 carries.

“They (Marengo) did do a good job against Jerel in the first quarter, but it is hard to contain him for the entire game,” Kilcrease said.

The Longhorns (6-6) were so focused on stopping Foster they bit hard on an option fake that released Walters for the Patriots’ first points of the game on a 54-yard run to the end zone. Walters rushed for 80 yards on eight carries in the game.

The opening 11 minutes of the game included five possession changes and the Longhorns received outstanding field position late in the first quarter. The Patriots were set to punt and the snap went over punter Corey Goodson’s head and as Goodson tried to punt the ball it was partially blocked and Marengo got the ball at the 2-yard line. Longhorn senior quarterback Jesse Morgan punched it in on the ground to put Marengo up 6-0.

Walters used the fake to tie the game two plays from scrimmage later and Josh Taylor booted the PAT through the uprights for the 7-6 PLAS lead with six seconds to play in the first quarter.

“It is such a good thing to have a back like Jerel,” Walters said. “On that play they bit on him and I took off. I don’t have that much speed, but I was able to get there.”

The Patriots would never trail again.

“I thought we played well enough to win the game,” Marengo Academy head coach Jesse Little said. “But we just got inside the 10 and couldn’t put it in. They (Pike Liberal) just have a heckuva team and they did great against us tonight.”

The teams traded scoreless possessions most of the second quarter as well until Foster busted a 50-yard touchdown run straight up the gut to give PLAS a 14-6 lead following a true PAT from Taylor with 2:28 to play in the first half. Walters also ran for 17 yards on the drive and connected on two passes for 18 yards.

The third quarter was more of the same with the teams swapping possessions and the quarter even involved a turnover swap.

Marengo had pieced together a six-play, 56-yard drive late in the third quarter, that included a pass from Morgan to Wood Collins, before Pike’s Will Starling intercepted a Morgan pass on fourth down and returned it to the PLAS 23-yard line.

“I wasn’t expecting to see the ball, but the throw was low and I grabbed it,” Starling said.

Starling also had eight tackles in the game.

On the second play for the Patriots, Foster fumbled the ball and Marengo fell on it. The Longhorns put together another decent drive only to see it end with another interception. This time Corey Goodson was on the receiving end of the pick. Goodson led the Patriots with 14 tackles in the game as well.

“It means so much more to help my team in the playoffs,” Goodson said. “Our defensive line just did a great job tonight keeping those guys off the backers and secondary.”

After the Patriots couldn’t capitalize on the turnover, Marengo tightened the gap to 14-12 on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Morgan to Beau Digmon. The two-point conversion attempt was no good and the Patriots clung to a 14-12 lead with 8:38 to play in the game.

Morgan was 3-of-10 for 90 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He added 80 yards on the ground with a touchdown on 15 carries to lead the Longhorns.

After a 27-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, Foster took the first play from scrimmage 47 yards to pay dirt and a 21-12 lead after another true PAT from Taylor.

Following a three-and-out from the Longhorns, PLAS drained the clock with a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Walters scored his second touchdown of the evening on a one-yard sneak and Pike led 28-12 with 2:01 left in the game.

The Longhorns attempted many trick plays in an effort to catch the Patriots sleeping, but Andrew Quincey fell on a fumble by Matt Wallace and the Patriots burned the rest of the clock for the victory.

Pike compiled 358 yards of total offense and Marengo had 300 total offensive yards. The Patriots won the turnover battle, 4-1.

Nick McLaughlin had 12 tackles for the Pike defense, Blake Thomas had 10 and Bradley Floyd had six.

Pike will face Tuscaloosa Academy Nov. 14 at DeWight Field at Delaney Kervin Stadium in the AAA semifinals.

Click here for a photo gallery from Friday night’s game