Goshen clashes with Long in return to playoffs

Published 12:08 pm Tuesday, November 7, 2023

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For the first time since 2019, the Goshen Eagles (8-2) are back in the playoffs and they will face off against Class 2A, Region 2 runner-up GW Long Rebels (7-3) on Thursday, Nov. 9 on the road in the opening round of the 2A State Playoffs.

The Eagles are coming off a much-needed bye week to end the regular season.

“It went well,” GHS Coach Don Moore said of the bye week. “We got a lot of rest and time to heal up from some bangs and bruises. It’s been good for us. We got back to working on us and did a lot of fundamental type of stuff.”

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The Eagles wrapped up the regular season on a six-game winning streak and scored over 60 points in the final two regular season games. Goshen’s running game has been dominant all season averaging 332 yards per game on the ground and in those final two regular season matchups, the Eagles rushed for a combined 1,128 yards. During the season Goshen averaged 40 points per game, while the defense gave up 19 points per game, which is the lowest points allowed by a Goshen defense since 2017.

Leading the way for Goshen’s hard-nosed rushing attack is senior South Alabama commit Jamauri McClure, who ended the regular season with an eye-popping 1,475 yards and 23 touchdowns on just 117 carries, for 12.6 yards per carry. Quarterback Jayden McNabb also became a weapon for the Goshen offense, passing for 488 yards and nine touchdowns along with 879 yards and 10 scores on the ground.

Receiver Tyler McLendon was an Eagle that found a number of ways to score this season, catching 18 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns along with three rushing touchdowns, a punt return touchdown and an interception return for a touchdown. Running back/linebacker Szemerick Andrews was a force on both offense and defense. He rushed for 579 yards and eight touchdowns along with tallying 53 tackles, six tackles-for-loss and two sacks.

Linebacker Landon Chandler has been a tackling machine for the Goshen defense, tallying a school-record 118 tackles, 17 tackles-for-loss, five sacks and one fumble recovery.

Goshen’s round one playoff opponent is the always-tough GW Long Rebels, entering their fifth straight playoff appearance.

“They’re a really good, disciplined football team,” Moore said of Long. “They play extremely hard for four quarters no matter what the score is. They’re very disciplined up front and they move you around up there.

“They have some playmakers, too. The quarterback is good and they have a couple of running backs and receivers. We have to go there, so we have our work cut out for ourselves. We have to minimize the penalties and take care of the football and I feel like we’ll be okay if we can do that.”

Long is averaging 353 yards per game this season and scores 29 points per game, while giving up 21.5 points per game. Bryson Hughes leads the Rebel offense with 1,375 passing yards and 10 touchdowns along with 1,517 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground. Brayden Whitehead is one of his favorite weapons, tallying 253 yards rushing and 398 yards receiving with six total touchdowns.

Long’s only region loss this season came at the hands of Region 2 Champion Cottonwood, with the Rebels’ other two losses coming to Class 5A’s Rehobeth and Class 4A’s Slocomb. Goshen and Long’s only common opponent this season was Zion Chapel. The Eagles bested ZCHS 35-7 on Sept. 1, while Long defeated Zion Chapel 36-20 on Oct. 5.

“We have to play with confidence and play how we played against Luverne and Lanett,” Moore said. “That’s what I want to see from our guys. I want us to compete for four quarters and I don’t think we did that against Horseshoe Bend. That’s something we’ve talked about, to not be satisfied with what we’ve done so far and still be hungry in the playoffs.”

Long and Goshen have met a total of 15 times with the Eagles holding the edge 9-6 in the series. This is the first time the two sides have met since 2011, however, which was a 48-20 Long win. The only other time the two programs have met in the playoffs came in also in 2011, where the Eagles won the rematch 33-28.

Goshen will travel to Skipperville on Thursday night where the two teams will meet at Rebel Stadium at 7 p.m.