Ariton ready for round 3

Published 5:04 pm Thursday, November 22, 2018

For the first time in 25 years, the Ariton Purple Cats will play in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs when they take on Highland Home on Friday night.

In 1993, the Purple Cats were coached by Julius Head. They finished the regular season with just two losses and were coming off playoff wins against Red Level and Carrollton. They matched up Notasluga in the third round of the Class 1A State Playoffs and came up short, losing 18-8 to the Blue Devils.

Now 25 years later, head coach Steven Kilcrease will try to lead his team to the semifinals, something that hasn’t happened since 1983.

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“Obviously, there is excitement here,” Kilcrease said. “The kids are excited. It’s probably a good thing we have been out of school. They have been focusing on football and getting ready for Highland Home. They have been mature and have handled all this really well. We are staying on routine and we are doing what we do.”

The Purple Cats are coming off a 36-27 win over Cottage Hill Christian last Friday night. The Purple Cats stormed out of the gates and took a 28-7 lead over the Warriors heading into halftime.

The Warriors scored 14 unanswered points to climb back to within 7 at 28-21. They eventually got to within one point before Ariton slammed the door.

“I thought we played a really good first half,” Kilcrease said. “I take responsibility for the second half. I thought we needed one more score and melt the clock. We were able to get that, but it wasn’t until there was three minutes left to go in the game. We had a couple of turnovers that hurt us offensively and we had a couple penalties that hurt us.”

With school being out for the Thanksgiving holiday, Ariton has been able to focus on practice. The Purple Cats spent Tuesday and Wednesday practicing in the morning. They spent about an hour practicing on Thursday before taking the rest of the day off to celebrate Thanksgiving.

The Flying Squadron comes into tonight’s game with just one loss. The fell to Headland in the season opener, but rallied to win 11 straight including playoff wins against Chickasaw and LaFayette. The offense has averaged 44 points per game, while allowing 13.

“I think our advantage in the last four or five games has been up front,” Kilcrease said. “We’ve got to be better than we have been all year up front and I’m talking about up front. I think the key of the game is winning the line of scrimmage. They have a really good back (Nakeldrick Hall). He is very talented; a big kid, runs the ball with a lot of speed. The quarterback can throw the ball, but he can also run.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Clay Stadium in Highland Home.