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Ariton goes for region title

The Ariton Purple Cats have the community buzzing heading into Friday night’s game against Abbeville with a region championship on the line.

With just one region game remaining, the Purple Cats have a 4-0 region record and a win over the Yellow Jackets on Friday night will give them their first championship since the 2008 season.

The Purple Cats hit the practice field on Friday night with built-up energy heading into Friday’s pivotal matchup.

“They are ready,” said head coach Steven Kilcrease. “I think they were excited to get to practice on Monday and that doesn’t usually happen.”

Ariton ended last season with a 6-5 record and finished third in the area. Even though it’s been 19 years since Ariton’s last region title, Kilcrease mad that goal number one this year.

“That has been something we talked about since the season ended last year,” Kilcrease said. “The kids’ goal is to win the region.”

The Purple Cats are in this position after starting region play undefeated. In their four region games, Ariton is averaging 36 points per game and is outscoring their opponents 147-60.

“We put ourselves in position to do that now,” Kilcrease said. “We don’t have to depend on anyone else. If we go out and do what we have to do, then hopefully we can come out with a win.”

These players weren’t born during Ariton’s last region title, so the community has rallied behind the team and is excited for the possibility of winning a championship.

“Last Friday we had one of the biggest crowds that we have had in a long time,” Kilcrease said. “There is excitement around the community. It’s a small community and they love Ariton. It doesn’t matter what sport it is. They are excited to see it back. We have several guys whose parents were part of the hay day of the mid 90’s.”

Despite all the excitement, the players on the field are remaining focused on the task at hand.

“We don’t have to come down – yeah they are excited, but this is what you play and coach for,” Kilcrease said. “They are focused on what they are doing. They don’t let emotions get to them very much.”

The Yellow Jackets are also undefeated in region play and their only loss came to the Class 3A Pike County Bulldogs.

“They’re a great football team,” Kilcrease said. “Coach (Robin) Tyra does a great job. He is a hard-nosed football coach. They are kind of in the same boat. He is turning that program around in the same way. Offensively, they are very skilled. Their quarterback is really good. (As far as) team speed, they have a lot more then we do and that concerns us.”

The Purple Cats are focusing on limiting big plays and are looking to force turnovers.

“We have to eliminate big plays,” Kilcrease said. “We have to eliminate turnovers and we have a big advantage in special teams and we have to take advantage of that.”

The Purple Cats won an offensive shootout a season ago 54-46 in Abbeville. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Robert F. Zumstien Stadium in Ariton.