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Patriots hope to close out with win

Tonight will mark the last time the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots will play on DeWight Ward Field in the 2010 season.

And the team is looking to go out with a bang.

While the Patriots’ season is not coming to an end, its No. 3 playoff seed did take away the ability to have home field advantage in the playoffs, with the next time being able to play in Troy coming in the AISA AAA championship game at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

However, the team is not concerned about what might happen in a matter of weeks – it is concerned with what’s next.

What’s next is the playoff bound Tuscaloosa Academy Knights, and despite its 3-6 overall record, PLAS head coach Steven Kilcrease said this is one of the better teams the Patriots will have seen this weekend.

“We are not overlooking this game,” he said. “They are much, much better than a 3-6 record.

“They are real athletic, young and physical. A lot of their good players came back from injury the last couple of weeks.

“They run a 4-3 on defense and almost dare you to throw on them. Offensively, they are going to run the I-formation and they do it well.”

After starting the season 0-6, the Knights rolled off three-straight region wins to secure the fourth seed in the AISA AAA Region 2 playoffs.

During that winning streak, the Knights have outscored its opponents 94-42.

As for the head-to-head match up between the two schools, the Patriots have dominated the series the past four years.

The closest contest came back in 2006, when PLAS edged Tuscaloosa 27-20 on the road.

Last season, the Patriots returned to Tuscaloosa and came home with a 52-30 win.

The latest installment will lack three Patriots playmakers however, as running backs Nick McLaughlin and Taylor Stephens and tight end Sam Carroll will all be out due to injuries.

Both running backs did not practice this week, but Kilcrease said there is no reason for Patriot fans to worry about next week’s opening round playoff game against Prattville Christian.

“Both guys could play this week, but we just want to give them extra time to get healthy. Their injuries are nothing serious and they will both be back in action next week in practice.”

Unfortunately, the news for Carroll was not as uplifting, as the senior had both bones in his left forearm broke after a Glenwood player hit it with his helmet during an interception return.

“It’s been tough to watch, knowing I am not going to be able to finish the season out with the guys,” Carroll said Thursday afternoon.

“This is not how I wanted my senior season to end, but I will do whatever I can to help encourage my teammates. I’m there for them like they have been there for me.”

Filling in the running back roles for the Patriots are Kyle Boswell and Taytom Barnes.

“We have had a good week of practice and those two have been getting a lot of time with the starters, which is good to see,” Kilcrease said.

“Both guys have really stepped up for us not just this week but the past couple of weeks. They both have good wheels and we are expecting big things from both.”

Barnes finished with 47 yards rushing on 10 carries last week against Lee Scott while Boswell finished with nearly 20 yards on five carries.

Another aspect of the game that will help encourage the Patriots to a win is senior night, as the school and its fans will say goodbye to the 10 seniors on the team, Stephens, Carroll, Evan Strother, Martin Meeks, Ashton Davis, Ben McKeller, Andrew Quincey, Dylan, Travis Broadway and Jackson Nelson.

“We want to send them off with a win (Friday night),” Kilcrease said.

“But hopefully, it’s not the last game this team plays in Troy.”

Like his coach, Quincey is hoping his fellow seniors and teammates can say goodbye to DeWight Field the proper way.

“It’s hard to believe the season is already at this point, but we are looking forward to this game,” the defensive end said.

“We are going to have to be ready to play well (against Tuscaloosa). They are a very good team that has been playing great lately. It’s definitely going to be a tough game but I think we are ready for it. We have had a good week of practice and we want to leave this field winners.”

The Patriots will play host to the Knights tonight, with a kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.