Zion Chapel, Ariton set for region clash

Published 11:31 am Wednesday, September 20, 2023

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The Zion Chapel Rebels (2-2, 1-1) host the Ariton Purple Cats (1-3, 1-1) in a pivotal Class 2A, Region 2 matchup this Friday night.

In a Region 2, every game counts and this week ZCHS is coming off a tough 22-20 win over Samson last week that saw the Rebels hold off a late comeback attempt.

“We played really hard and the game was much cleaner from us overall,” ZCHS Coach Cody Keene said. “There are still some things we made some mistakes in that were silly. If we do our jobs from play to play the result is much difference. We were proud to get the win and our kids played extremely hard with a lot of pride and we’re proud of that.”

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Quarterback Mason Stuart threw for 113 yards and a touchdown along with 174 yards and a touchdown rushing. Jerimiah Stinson also scored on a 9-yard run and Weston Watson scored on a 30-yard catch. Sophomore Brayden Benbow led the Rebel defense with 11 tackles and two tackles-for-loss, while Jackson Dowdy earned two sacks and Micah Fuller intercepted a pass.

Meanwhile, Ariton dropped a region loss to GW Long 33-27.

“They were the more physical team and they played hard and we didn’t tackle well at all,” Ariton Coach Steven Kilcrease said of the loss to Long. “They were the better team. They outcoached us and they outplayed us.”

Ariton holds a big advantage in the overall series with Zion Chapel 43-11, including six straight wins dating back to 2015. In the past three years, Ariton has outscored Zion Chapel 112-6 with two shutouts.

“Ariton is Ariton,” Keene said. “They’ve played a tough schedule in the first half of their season and they have an extremely athletic quarterback and great athletes on the perimeter and they’re big up front. I think they’re a little bit younger this year and they’re trying to put it all together from week to week. We expect to see a good, physical football team that’s athletic.”

Kilcrease has been impressed in the improvements he’s seen from Zion Chapel this season and had a flattering comparison for the Rebels.

“They’re a scrappy group and they play so hard,” he said of ZCHS. “They remind me a lot of Long. They have a good running and throwing quarterback and a good running back with an offensive line that is a lot better. Defensively is where they’re a lot better this year. They get after it and play hard and that’s all 11 guys out there, they’re just relentless to the ball.”

Keene said that he knows his Rebels will face adversity against Artion and wants to see how they handle that.

“I just want our guys to continue to play hard,” he continued. “Anytime you face adversity battle through it and maintain your composure and have a lot of pride in your performance and the way you play the game.

“Team success leads to individual success and we want to play as a team on Friday night based on the core values of our program and go get after Ariton.”

Kilcrease was adamant that his team has to improve if they’re going to win on Friday.

“We have to respond,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of time on us trying to get better and fix some issues that we’ve had. We’ve got to continue to improve and we have this week. I think we’ve gotten better. We still have to get a lot better before Friday or we don’t have a chance.”

Zion Chapel hosts Ariton at 7 p.m. at Greene Memorial Stadium in Jack.