Pike Liberal Arts will head to the playoffs after season-capping win against Ashford

Published 3:00 am Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pike Liberal Arts' Marquese Christian (3) carries the ball Friday night against Ashford Academy. (Troy Messenger/Joey Meredith)

Pike Liberal Arts’ Marquese Christian (3) carries the ball Friday night against Ashford Academy. (Troy Messenger/Joey Meredith)

Coaches and players alike hope on their homecoming night to come off the field with a win, and the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots did Friday night against the Ashford Falcons with a 41-20 victory.

Patriots head coach Gene Allen said it was a fitting win for so many of the seniors who had stuck with the program even at a time when the Patriots are not who they are now.

“It’s good to see them get some wins,” Allen said. “It’s good to see. Rush (Hixon) has been at Pike his whole life. Drew (Starling) and Connor (Woods) and Patrick (Henderson) and Cameron (Crowe), they were here the year we were 1-9 and never came off the field. I won’t say we reached the pinnacle by any stretch, because we want to get where we win them all, but it’s a good start.”

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Senior Drew Starling has recently been out for an ankle injury, but made an appearance in his final homecoming game and senior night as a Patriot. Starling said it was a great feeling to be able to play with the team members he has grown to love like family.

“This was great,” Starling said. “I’m honored to be a part of this team, and I give the glory to God. It’s just an honor to be on this team.”

Starling threw a 56-yard pass to senior Rush Hixon that ended in a touchdown for the Patriots. During Starling’s time off the field, Hixon had been starting as quarterback, and he said the game had come full circle for him receiving the pass from Starling.

“That’s where I started out as a receiver this year,” Hixon said. “Me and Drew, he’s thrown all preseason and all practice, so that’s my home really more than quarterback is.”

Jeremy James and Tyler Hussey both boasted interceptions and fumble recoveries for the night. Hussey, a sophomore, and James, a senior, led the team in tackles as well. Hussey had six tackles, and James had five for the Patriots.

Coaches are not the only ones out on the field who hope to impart a lesson on the players of the team. James said he hoped the seniors had been able to leave a legacy to his underclassmen teammates that they “need to take the game in their own hands.”

“No one else can do it, but them,” James said.

Starling had similar thoughts as James saying the team needed to be able to teach themselves how to win.

“They need to learn to win,” Starling said. “The last two years weren’t so great, but we’ve got to learn to win.”

The Patriots were able to get ahead on the Falcons early, scoring three times in the first quarter. PLAS had a total of six touchdowns for the night including one from Marquese Christian, Hixon, Cameron Crowe, Connor Wood, JaMichael Jones and Adam Grice.

Allen said the team had been able to play well on both sides of the ball, but still said the team could have prevented some small mistakes during the game.

“It was a big rival last week, and it was to get into the playoffs and the intensity was a lot higher,” Allen said. “This week was more laid back, and I think you could tell. We weren’t as aggressive as we have been the past few weeks, but it was good game.”

The Patriots were able to allow most of the players see playing during Friday’s matchup against the Falcons and Allen said that was always a goal for a coach.

“We got to play everybody for a good little bit, so it was a win-win for us,” Allen said. “Now we’ve just got to get ready. Right now everybody is 0-0 getting ready to play, so we’ve just got to get ready to play Bessemer.”

The Patriots will travel to Bessemer to face the Bessemer Academy Rebels in the first round of playoffs. Allen said he knew the team would have to work this next week at practice, and Hixon said the team was facing a David and Goliath situation for the contest.

“The opponent is probably going to be the best one we’ve played all year in Bessemer,” Hixon said. “We’re going to have to play the best game we’ve played all year. It’s going to David versus Goliath, but I feel like we can pull it out. I have faith that we can.”