Written By: Daniel Payne
This past Friday night, the Bibb County Choctaws and the Choctaw Nation loaded up and headed east to Roanoke Alabama to play the #5 Handley Tigers in a third round playoff game. The Tigers came into the game with a 9-1 record and one of the best rush defenses in class 4a giving up just under 84 yards a game and just 9.9 points a game. The Choctaws entered the game 10-2 and averaging over 344 rushing yards a game. There was no doubt that something had to give.
The Choctaws received the opening kickoff and began the drive at their own 27 yard line. Cole McCarty and Deshun Murrell both began to find holes in the Tigers defense and the Choctaws began marching down the field. The drive would stall at the Handley 20 yard line as Murrell was stopped on a 4th and 1 from the 19 yard line.
It didn’t take Handley long as on the first play from scrimmage disaster struck as Tae Meadows went around right end and raced 80 yards for the score. Caleb Burns extra point was good and with 5:10 left in the first quarter Handley led 7-0.
The Tigers defense rose up and forced the Choctaws into a 3 and out and following a 39 yard punt by Baylor Hughey, Handley began their second drive from their own 20 yard line again. On second down, Tigers quarterback Evan Cofield found Quadae Lewis behind the secondary for a 68 yard touchdown pass. Burns extra point again was good and as the game headed to the second quarter the Tigers led 14-0.
The Choctaws could have easily folded and just went through the motions after getting behind by 14 that quickly, but instead they settled down and began to fight back. On their next drive McCarty and Murrell again found running room. McCarty had 5 carries for 27 yards on the drive and Murrell would do the rest and on first and 10 from the Handley 20, Murrell went right up the middle and drug a Tiger defender the final five yards for the score. Hughey extra point was good and with 7:31 left before the half the score was now 14-7.
The two teams would swap punts on their next possession and the Tigers began their next drive from the Choctaws 49 yard line. On the fourth play of the drive, Cofield found Jordan West open for a 12 yard touchdown reception. Burns extra point was good to make the score 21-7 as the game went into halftime.
The Tigers started the second half from their own 30 yard line and behind the running of Meadows and the passing of Cofield they soon found themselves inside the Choctaws 40 yard line. Meadows would do the honors as he raced 38 yards for his second touchdown of the night. Burns extra point was good and it looked as though the Tigers were fixing to blow the game open as their lead was now 28-7.
Again, the Choctaws refused to roll over. After Cade Brown returned the kickoff 14 yards, Bibb would begin their next drive from their own 41 yard line. Murrell would be the workhorse again on the drive. After picking up 23 yards on the ground, Murrell would catch a pass from McCarty out of the backfield for a 22 yard gain on 4th and 6. On the very next play Murrell bolted through the line and raced to the end zone for 14 yard touchdown to make it a 28-14 game.
Meadows would add another score as he crashed in from the 5 yard line with 4:38 left in the third quarter. Burns extra point was good and the Tigers led 35-14. Murrell would match Meadows with his third touchdown on the night with a 2 yard run as the third quarter came to an end. Hughey’s extra point was good and the Choctaws were back within 14 as the score was now 35-21.
Unfortunately for the Choctaws that would be the final score of the game as neither team scored in the 4th quarter. When you get this deep in the playoffs it’s hard to come back from an early 14 point deficit, especially against a team as good as Handley. But you have to give it to the Choctaws, they never quit and played Handley evenly the rest of the way.
One might would say that the Choctaws with their 240 yards rushing, (182 by Murrell) and 21 points was more than anyone else had this season. While this is a true statement, the Choctaws standard has nothing to do with moral victories. We expect to get this far in the playoffs and we don’t look at moral victories as an accomplishment. The Choctaws were beaten by a very good team and will now move forward and begin working towards next season.
This group of seniors will be remembered as being a group who made it to the third round of the playoffs in 3 of their 4 high school seasons. They finish with a 41-10 overall record and a 22-2 region record. Only the 2011 seniors can claim a better record in their 4 seasons with a 46-6 overall record. I will personally remember this bunch as they were freshmen the first year I joined the program. I will remember them the most for who they are and then for what they accomplished. This is a great group of young men, as are all of the Choctaws, and it makes me feel better about our future knowing this.
To all the seniors, I want to personally thank you for allowing me to be a part of your high school careers. You will forever be special to not just me, but the entire Choctaw Nation. We wish you nothing but success and happiness as you move forward with your life outside of high school. I hope all your dreams come true and work just as hard towards them as you have these past four seasons.
As for the underclassmen, you already know what we have to do. It’s time to enjoy the holidays and then it’s on to getting ready for the 2021 season. I, as well as the entire Choctaw Nation can’t wait until those Friday night lights come on again next fall to see exactly what you guys can do.
The Choctaws would like to thank our booster club, our coach’s wives and kids, our band, and especially our tribe, the Choctaw Nation for all of your support this year. Without you we wouldn’t be who we are. And as Coach Geohagan tells the boys all season, there is not another place we would rather be than at Bibb County. We love and thank each of you and it’s great to be a Choctaw and have that purple blood flowing through your veins.