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Patriots heading to their first semifinal since 2010

The Pike Liberal Arts Patriots play in the Class AAA semifinals for the first time in 10 years Friday night when they travel to Bessemer to take on the Rebels.

In 2010 the Patriots had an opportunity to go to the state championship for the third consecutive season. The Patriots were coming off back-to-back state championships and had their eye on a third before ultimately falling to Monroe Academy.

This year the Patriots beat Monroe in the opening round to set up the showdown between the Patriots and the rebels with a trip to Montgomery on the line.

“We know what we got ahead of us,” head coach Mario White said. “We know that Bessemer is the defending state champions. We are going into their house, but if we are ready to take the next step as a program and as a team, this is a game we have to have.”

Since the 2010 season the Patriots have advanced to the postseason four times, each time coming up short in the opening round. The Patriots broke that trend last Friday night when they defeated the Volunteers of Monroe Academy, 45-7 in was the second-straight game between the two schools.

“We knew Monroe was a heck of an opponent,” White said. “We beat them the week prior, but they played us tough. We concentrated on finishing and cutting down on the penalties and playing fast. It came together for us. We went into halftime and talked about finishing the game. These young men came out and did that.”

This will be the second time Bessemer and Pike Lib will meet this season. However, the first time they met was in an exhibition matchup before the regular season began. The Rebels got the best of the Patriots in that game, defeating Pike Liberal Arts 14-7.

“We did a lot of things well that we needed to expand on,” White said. “They were and are a very physical team. When we lost that game I told the guys to keep their head up because they were playing for a rookie coach and there were a lot of things I needed to fix on my end. I assured them we were going to go back there and as you can see we are heading back there Friday night.”

The Rebels finished the regular season 7-2 with losses in the season opener against Glenwood and in the season finale against Escambia Academy.

In last week’s opening round of the playoffs, the Rebels knocked off Lee-Scott Academy, 34-14.

The Rebels are averaging 40 points per game, while their defense is allowing 20 points per game.

“Offensively they have running back Jarvis Dancy. He is a tough runner, but he can also fly,” White said. “If you get out of your gap for one second he is going to hit his head on the goalpost. Chase Langston is their speed guy and he will blow the top off you if you come up and try to stop Jarvis. We have to play assignment football. PJ (McDonald), I have been coaching him since he was in the seventh grade. He is a dynamic athlete who makes all the right decisions. When things break down he can hurt you with his legs.

“Defensively, they play a base 3-4. They will walk the outside linebackers down and bring some pressure sometimes. They will try to flush Mayes out of the pocket.”

The Patriots are averaging 33 points per game, while their defense allowed just over 12 points per game.

Unofficially, the Patriots and the Rebels have met 14 times with each team picking up seven wins. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Norton Field in Bessemer.