Patriots prepare to defend state title

Published 9:14 pm Monday, November 2, 2009

The Pike Liberal Arts Patriots will begin their pursuit of a second straight AISA Class AAA state championship when they open the playoffs against Marengo Academy Friday in Troy.

The game will mark the second straight year the two teams have played in the first round of the playoffs, as PLAS (8-1) won 28-12 over the Longhorns (5-5).

“We played them last year in the first round of the playoffs, and they’re a lot like they were last year in that they’re a big, physical football team,” said PLAS head coach Steven Kilcrease. “They probably match up with us better than anybody as far us up front goes.”

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Marengo is a wing-T team offensively, and will seek to stop the run on defense.

“Defensively, they’ll give us a 4-4 or 5-3 look trying to pack it in and stop the run,” Kilcrease said. “I feel like we’ll see the 5-3, but I don’t know that, so we’ll work on both.”

With playoff time finally arriving, both the Patriots and Longhorns must face the added pressure of being just one loss away from the season’s end.

“As far as pressure, I guess there is a little, but our guys know that because they’ve been through it,” Kilcrease said. “They know what’s at stake and know they move on if they win and they’re done if they lose. This is a fun time of the year.”

The winner of Friday’s game will advance to face the winner of Morgan Academy and Macon-East.

The experience of making the playoffs two straight years and making a state title run last season is something that should help the Patriots in their pursuit of a second title.

“The experience of being there is the big thing,” Kilcrease said. “Two years ago, we made the playoffs and we didn’t have any experience, so it was tough. Last year, we had just one game, so we had to get another one under our belt before we could turn around and play two of our best games of the year.”

For the players, the excitement of the playoffs is visible. Kilcrease said his players are noticeably more excited about playing this week.

“The kids are excited and they have really studied the film,” Kilcrease said. “They’ve talked about the film a lot, so you can tell they’re well prepared.”

Pike Liberal Arts and Marengo Academy will play for the right to advance Friday at 7 p.m. in Troy.