Patriots edge Chambers in offensive battle

Published 11:08 pm Friday, October 2, 2015

By Michael Shipma

The Pike Liberal Arts football team went down to the wire as it picked up its fourth win of the season 42-41 against Chambers Academy on Friday, Oct. 2.

The Patriots (3-2, 1-2 AISA AAA Region 2) fell behind early in a non-conference matchup with the Rebels (4-1, 1-1 AISA A Region 1), but were able to bounce back to overcome the potent offense of Chambers Academy.

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“I was really proud of our team,” said head coach Gene Allen. “Nothing was going our way early, but we hung in there. We kept coming back, and our offensive kept us in the game.”

Following an impressive 42-12 road victory over Cornerstone Christian, the high-scoring offense of the Rebels continued its impressive play with a strong first quarter performance that put the Patriots on their heels early on.

On their opening possession, the Rebels put together an 89-yard drive which resulted in a four-yard touchdown run by senior running back Christian Gillespie to put the visitors on the scoreboard first.

The Rebel defense came out firing on all cylinders as well, forcing a three-and-out on the Patriots’ opening possession.

Again, Chambers Academy put together a quick, efficient drive that was capped off with a 34-yard touchdown pitch and catch from junior quarterback Malik Lyons to Gillespie.

Pike Lib refused to fold under the pressure, however, putting together a drive of its own that resulted in a 30-yard score through the air from sophomore quarterback Reed Jinright to junior wide out Justin Ball to put the home team on the board barely into the second quarter. Jinright finished 8 of 18 passing for 131 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 67 yards rushing and another pair of scores.

Ball came into the game in place of senior running back Adam Grice, who was injured early in the game.

Lyons would restore the Rebels’ two-touchdown lead, scoring on a 39-yard punt return to make the score line 21-7 with 1:41 left in the half.

Ball put the Patriots right back in the game, catching his second touchdown reception of the night on a 20-yard scoring play in the closing seconds of the first half. The Patriots bounced back to make the score 21-14 going into the locker room.

Ball finished the game with 155 yards rushing on 13 carries for two touchdowns.

Pike Lib started with the ball in the second half, and wasted no time in pulling even with the Rebels. Ball found the end zone on a 68-yard rushing score that evened the score at 21 apiece.

The scoring frenzy between Ball and Lyons continued later in the third quarter, with Lyons scoring on a nine-yard rushing score. The ensuing extra point was no good, however, making the score 27-21 with 6:49 left in the third.

The Patriots capitalized on the opportunity to take the lead, and on the ensuing drive, Jinright put Pike Lib in front, 28-27, with a three-yard rushing touchdown with 3:25 left in the third quarter.

It was at this point that the Patriot defense stepped up to make plays, holding the visitors scoreless on the ensuing drive.

Having found its rhythm, the Patriot offense put together an impressive drive that started at their own 28-yard line that led to another Jinright rushing score from six yards out.

From that point, the two sides traded scores until Ball scored his fifth (touchdown) of the night on a 30-yard TD run that put the home team up 42-35 with five minutes left to play.

Lyons and the Rebels refused to go down quietly, and he put his team in position to tie with a nine-yard touchdown run to make the score 41-42 with 46 seconds left to play.

Chambers Academy’s second attempt to convert a two-point play failed, however, and the home team escaped with the win.

“Hopefully we learn a lot from this game,” said Allen. “We’ve got a big region game against Autauga Academy and we’ve got some guys that need to get healthy, but I think they’re up for the challenge.”

The Patriots return to action next week when they travel to play at Autauga Academy on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.