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Ariton comes up short

Ariton played host to the Leroy Bears in the second round of the Alabama 2A high school playoffs on Friday night. Leroy outlasted the Purple Cats 35-21 to advance to the quarterfinals.

Leroy opened with the football, picking up one first down before punting it away and downing Ariton at its own eight-yard line.

On the Purple Cats’ first play, running back Kape McCrae recovered a botched snap and picked up 12 yards. The rest of the drive featured much of the same, with McCrae finishing the drive on a one yard plunge to give Ariton an early 7-0 lead.

McCrae picked up 46 rushing yards on seven carries on the drive. Running back Bryson Peavey added 31 yards on three attempts.

The defenses then settled in as each team traded punts to finish out the first quarter of play.

Leroy came out of the second quarter gate hot, splitting the Purple Cat defense with a 54 yard touchdown run by running back Kelston Fikes to tie the game at seven.

Ariton responded, converting on a fourth and one before Peavey broke free for a 66 yard touchdown run to put the Purple Cats back on top, 14-7.

The Bears were able to pick up a pair of first downs before quarterback Nathan Taylor hit wide receiver Dawson McDaniels on a screen and McDaniels took it 44 yards to the end zone tie the game.

After an Ariton punt, Leroy put together a quick scoring drive before the half ended behind three completions for 41 yards by Taylor. The drive was capped by an eight yard receiving touchdown by Fikes that put the Bears up 21-14 at halftime.

McCrae tallied 80 rushing yards on 17 carries in the first half for Ariton while Leroy’s Fikes gained 113 all-purpose yards in the half.

On the opening drive of the second half, the Ariton offense only went backwards. McCrae was dropped in the backfield twice for the first time in the game.

Leroy took over with good field position and quickly found itself inside the 10-yard line with a 29 yard pass from Taylor. The Purple Cats held at the goal line, however, and forced a turnover on downs.

The Bears would get another shot after ending a long Ariton drive by picking off a Maddux Herring pass and returning it to the Ariton 20-yard line.

Two plays later, Taylor found McDaniels in the endzone for a 20 yard touchdown pass. The score put Leroy up 28-14 with 1:29 to go in the third quarter.

Ariton then embarked on a long, methodical drive that ate up 7:06 of clock and resulted in a four yard touchdown run by Peavey. The run brought the Purple Cats to with seven with 6:23 left to play.

Peavey finished the game with 126 rushing yards on 15 carries. Peavey and McCrae, who finished with 132 total yards, combined for 258 of Ariton’s 286 total yards.

The Bears took over and, after several key third down conversions, Fikes put the game on ice with a 51-yard touchdown run. The score put Leroy up 35-21 with 3:45 remaining in the game.

Fikes finished the game with 150 rushing yards on 17 attempts and had 26 receiving yards on five catches.

The Purple Cats final drive was cut short by Taylor’s second intercepted pass of the game. Leroy took a knee and advanced to the third round of the playoffs.

“I’m proud of our guys, they didn’t quit,” Ariton head coach Steven Kilcrease said following the game. “(Leroy) made plays. They made the big plays. We were fighting behind the sticks and with field position all night.”

Ariton finished the season 10-2 in Kilcrease’s second season at the helm. It was the first 10 win season for the Purple Cats since 1994 and featured the first region title since 1998.