This past Friday the game that has been called a lot of things over the years, but most recently has been dubbed “Rumble on the River” was set to kickoff at 7 pm at Choctaw Stadium. How much does this game mean to many people in both communities is something one might ask. Well, the easiest way to answer that is apparently a lot. At 4:30, yes, two and a half hours before kickoff, there were already fans in the stands on both sides staking their claim to a seat.
The two schools are separated by a mere 9.9 miles. A lot of the fans work with each other at different jobs and for some, well many, bragging rights were on the line. Social media is full of jabs, memes, and other forms of things meant to fire up both sides. But lost in all of this was the fact that two very good football teams were headed for a collision on this night. Both teams came in with 2-0 records and were seeking to win their first region game of the year. This game had all the ingredients to be a classic.
As the game started, both defenses stood tall. The Tigers and Choctaws both were forced to punt after their first possession. The Tigers again were forced to punt following their second possession. Bibb started their second possession at their 31-yard line after a 62 – yard punt from Markell O’Neil. The Choctaws advanced to midfield and were eventually turned away on 4th and short by the Tigers defense. But the Choctaws decided to return the favor and turned the Tigers away on a 4th and short at the Choctaws 12-yard line as the first quarter ended.
On their next possession, the Choctaws finally found the endzone when Jay Harris went around the right end and raced 75 yards for the touchdown. Kevin Duran extra point was good, and the Choctaws had a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. The teams would trade punts in their next possessions and the teams headed into the locker room with the Choctaws holding on to a 7-0 lead.
The fans at Choctaw Stadium on both sides were entertained by, in my opinion, two of the best bands we have seen so far this year. Our county is full of so many talented young men and women. If you were there Friday night, it was easy to see that both schools are very talented not only just on the field, but in the stands and on the sidelines with the cheerleaders.
The Choctaws came out of the locker room and took the opening kickoff and quickly drove down the field. On the ninth play of the drive, Matthew Cash scored on a 4-yard run to make the score 13-0. Duran again nailed the extra point to make it 14-0.
Turns out that Cash and the Choctaws weren’t quiet through at that moment. On the Tigers next possession. Cash intercepted a tipped ball and returned it to the Tigers 48-yard line. On the third play of the drive, Harris raced into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. Duran made his third extra point of the game to make the score 21-0 in favor of the Choctaws.
Both teams would exchange punts during the middle part of the third quarter as both defenses dug in. Speaking of punting, both teams saw the field position be flipped by the punter for both teams. O’Neil averaged 51 yards a punt and Brayden Morrison stepped in with a 31-yard punt of his own. Cash averaged 33 yards on the night for Bibb. You don’t see averages this high this much in high school football these days.
As the third quarter began to wind down and Bibb leading 21-0, if you were at the game and you weren’t from the area, you would think the Tigers would just give up, but not hardly. As the quarter ended, Trey Lawley dropped back and found Nate Barron crossing the field for a 35-yard touchdown. The extra point was no good leaving the score 21-6 and clearly the momentum had shifted as the Tigers and their fans were re-energized.
Just as easily as momentum can shift one way, it can quickly shift right back to the other side. And on this night, it would happen on the very next play. The Tigers kicked off following the touchdown and CJ Morrow caught the ball at the 20 and followed his blockers and went down the home sidelines for an 80-yard touchdown return to give the Choctaws a 27-6 lead as the fourth quarter began.
The Tigers regrouped and on the sixth play of their next drive, Lawley found O’Neil behind the defense for a 54-yard touchdown connection. Christopher Hernandez kicked the extra point to make it 27-13 and the fans saw the momentum pendulum swing back over to the Tigers side.
However, the Choctaws were determined to not let this game slip away as they used 10 plays to drive 62 yards to gain the momentum right back. Harris darted in from the 5-yard line for his third touchdown of the night. Following Duran extra point, Bibb was ahead 34-13.
Any hope the Tigers had of a comeback was quickly put to rest after Xavier Rhine sacked the Tigers quarterback for a 7-yard loss. Cash sealed the deal as he dove and intercepted the ball on the next play. Bibb would run out the rest of the clock to make the final score 34-13 in favor of the Choctaws.
This win was special to the Choctaws, not because of the rivalry, but because it was Coach Geoghegan’s 75th win as a Choctaw. His record is now 75-25 at Bibb, leaving him just 20 wins away from tying Coach Stan Moss for the most all time at Bibb.
On the night, the Choctaws were led by Jordan Leverette who was 11 of 18 for 117 yards. Leverette would add 69 yards rushing on the night.
Harris finished the night with 194 yards on 15 carries and 3 touchdowns.
Morrow had 2 catches for 55 yards and the 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Ty Burkes and Luke Thompson had 7 tackles each for the Choctaws. Dylan Goode and Rhine each had a sack. Cash had two interceptions on the night.
Nate Barron had 19 yards on 13 carries.
Lawley was 9 of 14 for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns on the night. Cade Fancher was 5 of 8 for 40 yards.
O’Neil had 3 catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. Barron added 50 yards on 3 catches and a score. Evan Pearson had 3 catches for 40 yards.
Bibb moves to 3-0 on the season and 1-0 in the region. They quickly must put this win behind them as they turn their attention towards this week’s opponent. The Choctaws will travel to ACA to take on the Patriots this Friday night.
West Blocton drops to 2-1 on the season and 0-1 in the region. The Tigers will host Sipsey Valley this Friday night.
Both kickoffs will be at 7 pm. I encourage you to go out and watch one of these games. You won’t be disappointed. Let’s pack the stands at both games and cheer on every student that is representing our schools.