Published 12:30 am Saturday, September 12, 2009
In a rematch from last year’s AISA state championship game, the No.1-ranked Fort Dale Eagles defeated the seventh-ranked Pike Liberal Arts Patriots 28-20 Friday night in Troy.
PLAS (2-1, 1-1) forced a three-and-out by the Eagle offense with a little over 1:30 remaining and looked as if it would have a chance to attempt to tie the game.
The Fort Dale (3-0, 2-0) punt was a short kick that was bouncing along the sideline. Taylor Stephens attempted to scoop up the ball for the Patriots, but the ball bounced off of his hands. Daniel Lowe fell on the ball for Fort Dale, giving the Eagles the ball back and enabling them to run out the clock.
PLAS head coach Steven Kilcrease said Stephens was attempting to make a big play, a play that Kilcrease was yelling for him to make.
“I’ll take up for Taylor there,” Kilcrease said. “If he fields that ball, he may score because they didn’t have anybody in front of him. He just mishandled it. He was trying to make a play and unfortunately, it didn’t work out. I wanted him to do it. I was sitting there yelling at him to pick it up because it was open.”
The muffed punt was not the only missed opportunity by the Patriots.
PLAS forced a Fort Dale fumble early in the fourth quarter and took over at the Patriot 43-yard line trailing just 21-14.
However, the drive was killed by a holding penalty that forced PLAS into a 2nd-and-18, as well as a sack of quarterback Trey Walters on third down.
Kilcrease said costly penalties in key situations have been a problem for the Patriots this season.
“The penalty hurt us and we wound up stalling out,” Kilcrease said. “Penalties in big situations hurt us. We were a little better with our penalties tonight, but they still wound up hurting us.”
Kilcrease also said the stalled drive was big momentum killer, as the Patriots had scored on their previous drive and appeared to be in a rhythm offensively.
“We talked about that possession while they still had the ball,” Kilcrease said. “We felt like if we could get a stop, we were going to go down to tie the game and wind up winning the football game.”
Fort Dale would take advantage, scoring a touchdown on the ensuing possession.
The touchdown came when Todd Burkett replaced Hunter Armstrong at quarterback and took the ball 58 yards around the right end for a touchdown.
“We had seen that before,” Kilcrease said. “He’s their backup quarterback, and we had seen him play quarterback before. But, that’s their athlete. They had him in there to make a play, and we didn’t get the quarterback on an option.”
The extra point made it 28-14 with 8:26 remaining, and the Patriots could not rally.
Initially, it looked as if the Pike Liberal offensive line would have its way against the Fort Dale defense.
The Patriots took their first possession of the game 67 yards in 13 plays, with all 13 plays being runs between the tackles.
The drive was capped on a one-yard touchdown run by Nick McLaughlin.
However, after rushing for 67 yards on its first possession, PLAS would rush for just 102 more yards the rest of the game.
Kilcrease said adjustments were key for both teams.
“They started defending things a little bit different, and we were able to make some adjustments at halftime that helped us to move it in the second half,” Kilcrease said.
The Patriot rushing attack was led by three different backs that all carried for more than 50 yards.
McLaughlin carried 16 times for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Daniel Powell led PLAS with 57 yards on 12 carries, while Stephens had 54 yards on 9 carries.
PLAS quarterback Trey Walters threw for 92 yards, all in the second half. Walters finished 8-14 with two touchdowns and an interception.
Fort Dale quarterback Hunter Armstrong was the beneficiary of defensive mistakes by PLAS.
“Defensively, mistakes killed us,” Kilcrease said. “We gave up a couple of deep balls and some third-down conversions, which you can’t do if you want to beat a team like that. They executed when they needed to, and we didn’t.”
Armstrong finished the game with 127 yards passing and a touchdown while going 7-14 through the air.
Kilcrease said the loss for PLAS was due mainly to a lack of execution.
“We didn’t execute,” Kilcrease said.
“That’s what it comes down to. We said all week that we had to execute for four quarters, and we didn’t do it.”
PLAS will be back in action next Friday at home against Glenwood School, while Fort Dale will take on Hooper Academy at home.