Year in review: Football

Published 6:35 pm Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It was a season of reversals in Pike County during the 2011 football campaign. A destitute program at Zion Chapel dominated and perennial power Pike Liberal Arts was left to watch the playoffs from home. Charles Henderson faced heartbreak and adversity while Goshen went on a roller-coaster ride throughout the season. Pike County, well, they’re just glad to see the calendar roll over.

Charles Henderson felt the strain of losing two members of their football family. Offensive lineman Ronnell Moore was killed in a car accident in June while defensive coordinator Tyrone Black passed away in October.

The Trojans opened the 2011 season with a tough loss to Beauregard, who will become a region open when CHHS moves to 4A next season. Trailing 21-14, Charles Henderson possessed the ball with a first and goal from the 1-yard line and less than five minutes left in the game but were stopped on four attempts. A blocked extra point would cost Charles Henderson in a 21-20 defeat to Valley. Courtney Downing would solidify himself as a premier runner against Rehobeth when the junior exploded for 269 yards and three touchdowns in the 42-14 homecoming win. The Trojans earned an emotional victory over Carroll on Oct. 14 when they knocked off the Eagles, 30-8, in the team’s first game since Black’s passing. The victory also clinched the school’s 10th playoff berth in 12 years.

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Charles Henderson went into their region finale needing a victory over Eufaula to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Trojans took a 9-8 lead late into the third quarter. After CHHS recovered a Tiger fumble, Downing returned the favor coughing up the ball deep in Eufaula territory. EHS would pick the ball out of the air and return it 82 yards for the score and take the lead. The tigers would never look back, defeating the Trojans, 17-9.

CHHS would knock over Demopolis, 21-14, in overtime on the road in the first round of the playoffs but would fall a week later to St. Paul’s, 31-0.

Downing produced a banner season by breaking the Charles Henderson single-season rushing record held by Cencade Pennington. Downing rushed for 1,603 yards breaking Pennington’s mark of 1,523 set in 1994.

Downing wasn’t the only back giving opposing defenses trouble. Across town, Pike Liberal Arts senior Nick McLaughlin rushed for 1,646 yards and 20 touchdowns for the Patriots. Unfortunately, that was one of very few highlights for PLAS in 2011. The 2008 and 2009 AISA state champions missed the playoff for the first time since 2006. The Patriots did end the season on a good note beating both sixth-ranked Lee-Scott and second-ranked Tuscaloosa on the road.

Zion Chapel won eight games (8-3) for the first time since 1979 and hosted their first postseason game in 20 years. Running back Dustin Riggsbee had a career night against Red Level when he rushed for 375 yards and five touchdowns. The Rebels fell in the first round to Barbour County, 22-10.

Goshen’s season seesawed back and forth. The Eagles dropped their first two contests to G.W. Long and Elba before reeling of five consecutive wins. Goshen then lost to both Highland Home and Zion Chapel to close the regular season. The Eagles got revenge in the first round of the playoffs when they travel back to Skipperville and knocked off G.W. Long, 33-28. Goshen be ousted from the postseason back Flomaton the next week.

Pike County had a season to forget. New head coach Rodney Dollar lasted just two games before leaving the team for personal reasons. Fred Holland took over the week the team was set to take on Goshen and it seemed the Bulldogs responded to the change. PCHS would lose the game, 33-20, but would produce by far the most offense than in any other contest. Pike County finished the season 1-8.

2012 holds an interesting season on the gridiron. Teams like Pike County and Pike Liberal Arts looking to return to prominence while Charles Henderson looks to adjust to a new classification. Goshen will look to get over the hump and advance past the second round while Zion Chapel aims to pick up its first postseason victory since 1979.