By Daniel Payne
The 2023 season started this Friday night, and the Choctaws were tasked with a road game against a 6A Chilton County team. After losing to the Tigers at home last year 30 -24, the Choctaws weren’t given much of a chance by many after graduating 26 players. But these young Choctaws were ready for the battle at hand.
Bibb started the game off on defense and held the Tigers at bay and forced a punt. After the punt was shanked, the Choctaws started off at the Tigers 36-yard line. Four plays later, Jay Harris darted through the defense for a 30-yard touchdown run. The try for 2 was no good leaving the score 6-0 Choctaws early in the first quarter.
The Tigers would score on a big play later in the first quarter when Logan Coppedge found Luke Moates all alone behind the secondary for a 50-yard touchdown strike. The extra point was good, and the Tigers were up 7-6 headed to the second half.
Bibb quickly drove down the field and looked as though they were going to regain the lead, but on a first and goal play the Tigers forced a fumble and recovered the loose football to end the threat. The Choctaws defense bowed up and forced a punt and took back possession. But the Tigers defense was ready for the challenge and forced the Choctaws to punt.
It was at this time of the game, that it seemed like the game was being played in analog mode and was buffering after every play. Every play had some reason or another for the officials to gather up and discuss something. After 2 suspicious penalties on fourth down plays, the Tigers finally found pay dirt on the 21st, yes that’s right, the 21st play of the drive, when Xaviebren Ray scored on a four-yard run. The extra point was good and with just over 2 minutes before the half, the Tigers had extended their lead to 14-6.
Following the kickoff, the Choctaws took over at their 33-yard line with 2:12 to go and were looking to try and tie things up before the half. But on first down, disaster struck. A quick screen pass was tipped right into the hands of the Tigers Justin Godwin who raced untouched for the pick 6. Again, the extra point was good, and the Tigers were now up 21-6.
The Choctaws drove down the field as the first half was coming to an end and saw their drive end at the Tigers 20 as the clock hit 0:00 sending the teams to halftime.
Things had quickly unraveled for Bibb and with this team being as young as it is, it could have easily folded. But instead, they knew that they just needed to keep doing what they had been doing and to just step it up a notch. And boy did they ever.
Matthew Cash got things started when he returned the second half kickoff and returned it 50 yards to the Tigers 20-yard line. Two plays later, Harris broke free again and raced untouched for a 20-yard touchdown run. The attempt again was no good, leaving the score 21-12 in favor of the Tigers.
Both defenses would bend not break over the next four drives. On their 4th drive of the second half, the Choctaws finally found their rhythm but seen their drive end on a missed 28-yard field goal attempt.
The Choctaws defense again turned away the Tigers and forced another punt. Bibb would take over at the Tigers 43-yard line. On second down, Jordan Leverette dropped back and found Kavon Holman behind the secondary for a 43-yard touchdown connection. The PAT was no good leaving the score 21-18 in favor of the Tigers.
The fourth quarter began, and it saw yet again the Choctaws defense bow their necks up and force the Tigers to punt. The Tigers ran one play in the second half inside the Choctaws territory and turned the ball over via a fumble at the Choctaws 49-yard line.
Following the turnover, Bibb quickly moved down field and grabbed the lead back away from the Tigers when Leverette darted into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown run. Kevin Duran extra point try was good and Bibb led 25-21.
Chilton County found out quickly that the Choctaws defense were playing like their hair was on fire as they again were stuffed and forced to punt again after another 3 and out series.
Following the punt, the Choctaws took over at the Tigers 41-yard line with just over 5 minutes to play. On the 6th play of the drive, Harris scored his third touchdown of the night on a 21-yard touchdown run. Duran’s extra point was good, and Bibb had a 33-21 lead.
Any hopes of a comeback were quickly put to rest as Xavier Rhine aka Chunky sacked Coppedge. On the play, Coppedge tried to throw the ball away while being drug down and was called for intentional grounding. Two plays later, Antonius Steele sealed the deal when he picked off Coppedge sending the Choctaws and their fans into a frenzy. Bibb would run out the clock and begin to celebrate their 33-21 season opening victory.
The Choctaws were led on offense by Harris with 25 carries for 231 yards and 3 touchdowns. Leverette added 66 yards on 11 carries and a score. Leverette also threw for 111 yards and a touchdown.
On defense the Choctaws were led by Ty Burkes with 14 total tackles. Rhine 12 total tackles and a sack, and Luke Thompson with 9 total tackles. Harris and Steele each had an interception. Trahsun Griffin had a fumble recovery on the night.
The Choctaws would like to thank our fans, our cheerleaders, and our band for the electric atmosphere that was created Friday night. It has been a long time since that energy was felt at one of our games. And the team feeds off of this energy as one could easily see in the second half.
The Choctaws move to 1-0 on the season and have to quickly put this one behind them as the #3 team in 3A, the Gordo Greenwave, will come to town this Friday night. Kickoff will be at 7 pm at Choctaw Stadium.