Pike County back in the playoffs

Published 3:07 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2022

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The Pike County Bulldogs (6-3) are back in the Class 3A Playoffs, after missing the playoffs in 2021, on the road at the Region 1 Champion Excel Panthers (9-1).

The Bulldogs are coming off a frustrating 21-20 loss to Houston Academy last week, while Excel dropped a road game to Chipley (Fla.) 28-12. It was Excel’s only loss of the season. However, Excel did lose an early-season game to Mobile Christian 35-14 that was later forfeited due to Mobile Christian playing an ineligible player.

Pike County comes into the playoffs averaging 30 points per game and giving up 13 points per game. The 113 total points PCHS has given up in 2022 is the lowest point total any Bulldog squad has given up since 2019. Excel enters the playoff averaging 29 points per game on offense and giving up 20 points per game on defense.

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The Pike County offense is averaging 174 yards rushing per game and 152 yards passing per game with a well-balanced attack. Junior quarterback Omari Barrow has completed 81-of-137 passes this season for 1,333 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions, while sophomore running back Nemo Williams has rushed for 814 yards and five touchdowns on 95 carries. Senior running back Zay Carlisle has been hobbled by injuries late in the season but he still amassed 432 yards and three touchdowns on 82 carries through the season.

Receiver Chimarion Brown is averaging 18.8 yards per catch with 16 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns, while Braylin Jackson has also hauled in eight catches for 149 yards and a touchdown.

On defense, linebacker Markelis Hobdy has been all over the field with 77 tackles, 14 tackles-for-loss, one sack, two interceptions and two forced fumbles this season. Linebacker Ja’quan Sweeney has also tallied 50 tackles, 13 tackles-for-loss and four sacks, while Que Carter has 48 tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss, three sacks and four forced fumbles. Nemo Williams has also been a force on the defensive end with 46 tackles, 17 tackles-for-loss, seven sacks and a forced fumble.

Pike County’s not-so secret weapon, though, is senior athlete Ian Foster. Foster has an eye-popping 1,472 all-purpose yards and 21 total touchdowns this season and has scored in all three phases of the game. On offense, Foster has rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns along with catching 27 passes for 618 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also completed a pass for 24 yards, as well. On the defensive end, Foster has 48 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, nine pass breakups and six interceptions. He returned those interceptions for 357 yards and three defensive touchdowns.

While teams have gone out of their way to kick away from Foster in the kicking game, he’s made any opponent that dares kick it his way pay. On just three kickoff returns, Foster has 205 yards and two touchdowns along with five punt returns for 123 yards and another touchdown.

Pike County has one of the richest traditions in Class 3A history, with three state championships in the past 20 years and five total state championships. The Bulldogs are 57-27 overall in the playoffs with 33 playoff appearances, while Excel is 14-22 in the playoffs with 24 total playoff appearances.

This will be the first time that Pike County and Excel have ever met on the gridiron. Pike County is 5-4 on the road in the playoffs and last won a road playoff game in 2020. Pike County and Excel will kickoff at 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium in Excel, outside of Monroeville.