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Patriots find footing, defeat Evangel Christian

The Pike Liberal Arts Patriots broke their losing streak with a 46-7 win over Evangel Christian on Friday.

PLAS head coach Gene Allen said a hard week of practice and a boost in the team’s confidence had been crucial in getting the Patriots back on track for the 2015 season, and he is proud of the hard work the team has put in over the last week.

“It was very much needed after last week,” Allen said. “We played terrible last week. Offensively we had six turnovers. Defensively we missed a lot of tackles. We had a great practice Monday and Wednesday for sure. Tuesday is always a light game because we have JV and all, but I really thought we had a really good week of practice and it carried over. Even our backups had a great week of practice, which made our first ones better.”

The Patriots started their attack on the Lions early, with Tyler Hussey intercepting a ball for the Patriots in the fourth play of the game. The Patriots scored on the next play with a 27-yard run from Adam Grice into the end zone. The Patriots’ extra point attempt was no good, but the six points put PLAS on the board.

Grice’s 27-yard touchdown was his first of the night. Grice would go on to score two more touchdowns in the first half including a 68-yard touchdown run s. Grice said as a senior he felt it was his duty to be a leader on the team and pass on wisdom to the team’s underclassmen.

“I play for the Lord above who gives me all my abilities and also the guys that stand beside me,” Grice said. “A running back is only as good as their line, and they played a great game tonight. I was able to get what they gave me.”

Like his coach, Grice said this week’s success started on the practice field. “It’s something else, I’ll tell you,” he said. “We had a great week of practice this week, and that’s what made this game. Just trying as hard as you can not to repeat the last two games, and then you come out and you show out as a team … it just feels fantastic to win.”

Hussey was one of three Patriots with interceptions on the night; others included Christian Clark and Ridge Knotts. Allen said the defense was running on all cylinders Friday night, something the team had been working toward all season.

“I was really proud of the defense tonight,” Allen said. “If Evangel hadn’t picked up that fumble and scored, we would have had a shut out tonight, so that’s always good. I started subbing guys on defense in the middle of the second quarter. Anytime you can get a shutout when you’re playing all your young guys and you’re keeping them out of the end zone, it’s always fun. I thought the defense played really well even though we gave up a few yards. We bent a little bit, but we didn’t break, so that’s good.”

Patriots’ newcomer JT Ball had his running skills on display Friday. In the state of the second half, Ball received the opening kick on the PLAS 6-yard line and ran back for a 94-yard touchdown run, which pushed the Patriots’ lead over Evangel to 39-0.

“I’m feeling really good,” Ball said. “It was all thanks to the team. They gave me good blocks. They gave me cutback lanes. I really just have to give it up to my teammates. Before we came out from halftime, coach was saying we hadn’t had a kick return so I had it in the back of my mind that I needed that. I had to do it for my team. I just had to take it to the house. I just ran the ball. I was feeling really good, and I saw the cutback lane. I hit it and I was feeling really good about it.”

Ball and Grice’s touchdowns were accompanied by touchdowns from Marquese Christian, who scored for the Patriots in the second quarter, and Wood Jinright, who scored for the Patriots in the final quarter of the game. Allen said to have a four of Patriots contributing to Friday’s score was a much-needed change of pace for the Patriots’ offense.

“It’s great,” Allen said. “We like to spread it around. We wish we could do it every game. We want different people to score, but if Adam scores 10 or JT scores 10 or whatever, we don’t care who scores we just want to score them early. Adam had a couple of really great runs, JT had a couple of really good runs. Marquese’s touchdown was a really great play, and Wood played really well because he could have gotten tackled right off the bat, too.”

The Lions’ only score came late in the game after a fumble from the Patriots. Evangel’s Daryl Stewart recovered the Patriot fumble and ran the ball into the end zone with 5 minutes remaining left in the match up Friday night.

After going up 27-0 over the Lions in the first half of the contest, Allen and the Patriots’ coaching staff were able to put some of the younger members in the lineup on the field. Allen said he was pleased with the way the younger players had showed in Friday’s match up.

“A lot of them got to play tonight, and it’s always great when you can play everybody,” Allen said. “A lot of our backups had some great plays tonight. Ridge had an interception and we had a couple of fumble recoveries by young guys, which is great. It’s great for team moral, especially coming into homecoming. It was just a great win for everybody.”

Leading the Patrtiots’ offense was Grice with 138 total rushing yards on eight carries with three touchdowns. Wood Jinright followed Grice with 27 total rushing yards on five carries with one touchdown. Ball was a close third to Wood with 15 yards on three carries with one kick return for 94 yards. Patriots’ starting quarterback Reed Jinright had six complete passes on eight attempts and ended the game with 131 passing yards and two touchdown passes.

Leading the Patriots’ defense was Jarrett Jordan with five tackles and one assist. Jordan was followed by CJ Allen, who garnered four tackles for the Patriots. Hussey ended the game with three tackles and four assists.

The Patriots will host South Montgomery County Academy next Friday for their homecoming game. The Patriots and the Raiders are slated to kick off at 7 p.m. on DeWight Ward Field.

Crowning of the 2015 Homecoming Queen and court will be during half time of the game.

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