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Year in review: Football teams enjoy 2016 success

2016 was the year of postseason play for the local football teams in Pike County. Charles Henderson, Goshen, Pike County and Pike Liberal all ended their seasons in the playoffs.

Teams such as Charles Henderson and Pike Liberal brought back a wealth of experience in 2016 whereas Pike County lost 13 seniors off a 2015 team that lost just one game and came a yard away from securing a region championship.

The Pike Liberal Patriots were one of the teams returning plenty of experience in 2016 when they welcomed back 13 seniors to the sideline for one final season.

The Patriots finished the season with a 6-5 overall record in 2016 with a region record of 3-2.

“Our goal is to always win a state championship,” said Patriots head coach Gene Allen. “We lost to some really good football teams. We played pretty good at times and then there were some we didn’t play well at all. Overall, I thought we played pretty decent.”

The Patriots began the season winning their first three games by a combined score of 108-33, which included a 41-15 win over region rival Ford Dale. The Patriots lost three out of their next four games to bring their record to 4-3 on the year. In a pair of must-win games to secure a playoff spot, the Trojans defeated both Hooper and Morgan Academy.

After closing out the season with a loss to Lee Scott, the Trojans once again went up against the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. The Warriors run game was too much to handle and the Patriots ended their season with a 42-0 loss.

The Charles Henderson Trojans began the season with a lot of optimism and excitement. Noah Lowery was set to become the full-time starting quarterback and the defense was primed to take another step forward under second year defensive coordinator Chuck Dunn.

By week three, after a 0-2 start, the Trojans had DQ Toney playing quarterback and the defense trying to figure out a way to stop the run after letting up 186 yards to UMS Wright prospect Michael Mathews and over 300 yards in rushing to Carroll the week after.

The Trojans found their answer, and turned the corner by winning four straight games which included a win over Class 6A Stanhope Elmore coached by former Trojans coach Mike Dean.

“We played with more passion,” said head coach Brad McCoy after the win. “We played with more energy and we all played together. This by far was our best performance.”

The Trojans closed out the regular season with a 7-3 record and secured a date to take on St. Paul’s in Mobile in the opening round of the Class 5A state playoffs. The Saints were too much to handle and the Trojans finished the season with a 45-7 loss.

The Goshen Eagles entered 2016 on the backs of an eight-year streak of making the playoffs.

The streak moved to nine years in a row after they finished the regular season with a 7-3 record.

“Going into the year we knew we were going to be young in certain spots,” said Eagles head coach Bart Snyder. “The guys worked hard to get some experience and do good and they did. I was very pleased with what they did.”

One of the areas in which the Eagles were inexperienced was along the offensive line. The Eagles lost much of their offensive line, but their strong core of running backs in Cory Peterson, Zack Alford and Damion Passmore didn’t miss a beat in 2016.

“We were very pleased with the efforts that they gave,” Snyder said. “All three of those guys did a great job. They were hard runners and they were determined to do the things needed to make us successful.

The Eagles started the season winning six of their first seven games, with the only loss coming to Elba who was ranked in the top five at the time. After the hot start the Eagles lost two out of their last three games before taking on Verbena in the first round of the playoffs. The Eagles won the high-scoring game 48-25 setting up a second-round game with Southern Choctaw. The offense couldn’t get on track and the Eagles fell to Southern Choctaw 34-14 to end their season.

The Pike County Bulldogs had a big hill to climb in 2016 when they were tasked with having to replace 13 seniors from the previous year. The Bulldogs also were placed in a new region with unfamiliar opponents. The unfamiliarity that came along with region 3 didn’t hamper the Bulldogs though, as they finished conference play with a 6-0 record. Overall, the Bulldogs finished the regular season 8-2 with a pair of losses ending the season.

American Christian was the opening round matchup for the Bulldogs. It was a game they won 27-22. In round two, the offense sputtered in a season-ending loss to Bayside Academy 24-7.

The Zion Chapel Rebels didn’t make the post season, but their win total of three matched the win totals of the previous two years combined. Head coach Bubba Nall began his tenure as head coach at Zion Chapel and he is excited in the direction his team is heading.

“We won one more game than we did last year,” Nall said. “That is good for our program. I am thankful for our parents, our administrators and our band students. We did some things that got our program heading into a better direction.”