Written By: Daniel Payne
On Friday night as the Bibb County football team pulled up to Danny Logan Stadium in Tuscaloosa to take on arch rival ACA, one could easily notice the two long lines at the gate waiting to get in. Little did they know that the people going into the game as pairs would be synonymous to the Bible story about the Ark. Because just before the game was getting ready to begin, the skies opened and torrential rains of what seemed was of a Biblical proportion began to fall. But fans on both sides stayed true and the stadium was full as they had come to watch a game that is always huge in the region.
The Choctaws received the opening kickoff and on the third play of the drive, quarterback Jordan Leverette dropped back and found Kevon Holman behind the defense for a 57-yard gain and a first down at the Patriots 23-yard line. The Choctaws drive would stall at the 19 and Kevin Duran would line up for a 29-yard field goal. The attempt was good, and the Choctaws were up 3-0.
Both teams would have trouble staying on their feet and holding on to the football as the rain seemed to fall even more so as the waters began to puddle up on the turf.
The Choctaws defense held the Patriots on their first possession and forced a punt. Bibb seemed to be driving for another score when disaster struck. A Choctaws fumble was recovered by the Patriots, who just happened to be down stream from the fumble and scooped it up out of the current of the rising water.
Both defenses would continue to turn back the other teams’ offenses as the conditions begin to deteriorate on the field. Not long after the second quarter had begun, disaster would again strike the Choctaws as the snap on the punt was mishandled and the Patriots took over inside the Choctaws 5-yard line. Two plays later Davis Dare dove and swam into the end zone for the touchdown. DJ Daly added the extra point to make the score 7-3 in favor of the Patriots.
Later in the second quarter, the Choctaws would again see disaster strike as Leverette rolled out and was hit as he tried to throw the ball. The ball went up into the air and landed in the arms of Patriots defender Caleb Morrison who returned it 26 yards for the touchdown. The extra point attempt was blocked, and the score was 13-3 in favor of the Patriots as the teams headed to the dry locker room at the half.
As I was leaving the press box at halftime, I overheard a Tuscaloosa TV reporter on the phone saying that neither offense could get anything going. He went on to say that ACA would receive the second half kick and if they drove down and scored, he didn’t see any chance of the Choctaws coming back from a 20-3 deficit.
As the second half got started and the rains began to cease, the Patriots returned the kickoff just inside Choctaws territory. Behind the running of Jackson Willingham, the Patriots quickly moved down field and Willingham would find the end zone of a 5-yard touchdown run. Austin Hargrove followed with the extra point to make it 20-3 with the Patriots leading.
Flashback to the reporter and what he was saying. If you are close to the program, you already know this guy isn’t familiar with this year’s team. I mean we only see them when it’s ACA week anyways. But, enough about that and back to the game.
I’m sure he wasn’t the only one who felt this way as the Patriots sideline and fans were buzzing louder than they were in the first half. But the momentum and the buzz were slowly beginning to disappear, and they didn’t even know it.
CJ Morrow took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 38 yards to set the Choctaws up with excellent field position. Jay Harris would begin to find openings and after breaking away for a 45-yard gain, he would find the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run. Duran extra point was good, and the score was now 20-10.
The Choctaws defense regrouped after allowing a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half and forced a punt on the Patriots next possession. The Choctaws took over at their own 25-yard line. Leverette would find Morrow open for an 18-yard gain and follow that up with a 25-yard completion. After a few short runs by Harris, Leverette again found Morrow open for a 22-yard gain setting Bibb up with a first and goal at the Patriots 3-yard line. Harris crashed in for his second touchdown of the night and following a blocked extra point attempt, the buzz and momentum had shifted over to the visitor’s sideline.
On the following kickoff, the Patriots looked as though they were going to break another long return, but Choctaws defender Ty Burkes had other ideas and stripped the returner and gave Bibb the ball right back at the Patriots 35. Bibb would eventually be forced to punt as ACA withstood the Choctaws offense and took over following a punt. However, the Choctaws defense bowed their necks and forced a quick 3 and out to give their offense the ball right back.
The Patriots defense must have felt like anything that Bibb could do, so could they as they again turned back the Choctaws and forced a punt. Cash dropped back and sent an end over end punt that was muffed as the Patriots returner tried to catch it on the bounce. Camden McCarty was there and recovered the ball at the Patriots 8-yard line and ran into the end zone with it.
Unfortunately, in high school football a fumbled punt return can not be advanced by the defense, but Bibb had the ball with a first and goal opportunity. On second down, Cash followed a crushing block by Antonius Steele and bulldozed his way into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. The extra point again was blocked leaving the score 22-20 in favor of the Choctaws with just over 9 minutes remaining.
ACA loaded up and began driving down the field and found themselves quickly inside the Choctaws 30-yard line. On a 4th and 2 play. ACA quarterback was sacked and stripped of the ball by Luke Thompson. The Patriots recovered the fumble, but Cash quickly tackled the Patriots player giving the Choctaws possession again.
Bibb began to methodically drive down the field and the Choctaws were milking the clock of all the time they could to try and put the game away. The drive would eventually stall at the Patriots 17-yard line to set up some late game heroics.
The Patriots used just two plays, completions of 23 and 21 yards from Kai Young to Davis Dare and had a first down at the Choctaws 39 yard-line. The Patriots kicker was seen during pregame kicking filed goals of 40 yards with ease. Bibb needed a big play and quickly. And boy did they get not just one, but two on back-to-back plays by Xavier “Chunky” Rhine. Rhine chased Young out of bounds on first down and followed that up with a sack of Young on second down. Two plays later, just as he did in last week’s game, Cash intercepted a pass to seal the deal and send the Choctaws and their fans into a frenzy.
Leverette finished the night 9 of 13 for 118 yards. He added 63 yards on 13 carries.
Harris had 30 carries for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Choctaws were led on defense by Rhine who had 9 tackles and the key sack on the last drive. Steele added 8 tackles and Thompson had 7 and the strip sack on the night.
Bibb moves to 4-0 on the season and 2-0 in the region. The Choctaws will travel to Buhl, Alabama this Friday to take on the Sipsey Valley Bears in another big region game as the Bears are also 2-0 in the region. Kickoff is set for 7 pm.
Editor’s Note: Photos will be added to this post asap.