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Patriots ready to play for a state championship

Late Friday afternoon the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots will step off the bus at Montgomery’s Crampton Bowl to play in their first AISA State Championship since the 2009 season.

The Patriots will matchup with the Region 1 champion Glenwood Gators.

When the Patriots last made it to the championship game they secured their second-straight state championship. After knocking off Bessemer last week, the Patriots get their shot at winning their third state title.

“We are really excited,” said senior quarterback Mayes White. “Nobody has been to a championship game before on this team, so we are really looking forward to this Friday. We are going to play hard and I think we are going to come out with a W.”

“I am really excited for the game,” said Caleb Guice. “I hope we win and put on a show for everyone.”

As soon as the clock hit zero last week in Bessemer, the Patriot players and coaches immediately received messages and phone calls congratulating them for their achievement.

“I have heard from hundreds of people and hundreds of alumni,” head coach Mario White said. “Hundreds of people in the community, people at the gas station and people at Burger King. We have had a lot of people reach out and like what we have done as a group, as a team.”

The Patriots finished the regular season 7-2 with their losses coming against Chambers Academy and Friday night’s opponent Glenwood in what turned out to be the region championship game. In both instances, coach White, who is in his first year as a varsity coach, took the blame.

“We went down to Chambers and took a loss,” White said. “That was strictly Jason Allen outcoaching me. In the game against Glenwood we had Gibson, who is a professional coach. We have had the talent all year long, it’s just been me growing as a coach.”

The Patriots will play under the bright lights of the Crampton Bowl in front of what should be the largest crowd they have seen all season. Despite the large crowd and bright lights, coach White doesn’t believe the environment will intimidate his team.

“We have had everything thrown at us,” White said. “We have had a world-side pandemic, we’ve had criticism for the guys leaving their schools and coming here. Pike has shown love for all the kids and all the coaches. I don’t think we’ll flinch. We have prepared for this. I have preached to the kids every single day that when you dream you always dream big.”

The Patriots fell to Glenwood 26-7 in the region finale, and all the players are eager to return the favor on Friday.

“We are really hungry,” Guice said. “I am just ready for the game so I can take out my anger from last time.”

“We want to take back everything we lost,” said Peyton Dicks. “We have become a more fundamental team since then.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.