Patriots stretch closer to historic season Friday

Published 11:47 pm Thursday, November 13, 2008

The 2008 Pike Liberal Arts Patriots will go where only two previous Pike teams have gone tonight.

In the 38-year history of the school, the Patriots have made the semifinals of the AISA state playoffs only three times before tonight.

The two previous trips to the semis were in the 1988 and 1995 seasons.

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The Patriots (10-1) host the Tuscaloosa Academy Knights (11-1) to DeWight Ward Field at Delaney Kervin Stadium for the 2008 semis.

However, the Patriots are only worried about one thing. They are focused on finishing the season with a win in the Class AAA state championship game.

“It feels good to go where not many teams before us have gone, but we are looking at the big picture and we are staying focused on a state championship,” PLAS head coach Steven Kilcrease said. “But it is good for the kids to have gotten to this point. And they understand that one of our goals at the beginning of the year was to win the state title.”

The next step to winning that title goes through an athletic Tuscaloosa team that is on a nine-game win streak. The Knights lost to Bessemer Academy Sept. 5 and have not lost since then.

“They are an extremely well-coached team and Wayne Brantley has done an outstanding job in turning their program around,” Kilcrease said.

Brantley’s key ingredient in that turnaround has been junior quarterback Jeremiah Tullidge. Tullidge has passed for 3,225 yards with 37 touchdowns and six interceptions and rushed for 801 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“Tullidge is a really good quarterback and he is a lefty who can throw the football, but he really kills people with his legs,” Kilcrease said.

Kilcrease said if the Patriots want to win the game they must shut Tullidge down.

“We will have to play our best defensive game of the year Friday,” Kilcrease said. “We must defend the run and get to the football.”

And if the Patriots can shut down the Knights quarterback they can give Tuscaloosa a heavy dose of their own weapon, Jerel Foster.

Foster has rushed for 1,961 yards and 22 touchdowns on 231 carries so far this season.

The way they get yards and score touchdowns may be different, but the rise of the Patriots and the Knights occurred in much the same fashion. They both had losing seasons last year and they are both one-loss teams in the semifinals this year. Kilcrease said that “mirror image” was talked about when the coaches swapped films last Saturday.

“We have had parallel improvements from last year and we had basically the same record last year,” Kilcrease said. “We do it different ways. They throw the football and we run it, but that just shows that there is more than one way to succeed.”

The Patriots and Knights get things started at 7 p.m. tonight in Troy.