The Lions secured the Northwest Alabama Conference Championship on Friday night with their demanding win over the Phillips High Bears. Traveling to Bear Creek for the final game of regular season play the Lions knew their goal was to depart Ray Stadium with the win to secure the NWAC Championship crown. The Bears won the coin toss and elected to receive.
Dax Benton's opening kick sailed into the end zone setting Stirley Adrian and the Bears offense up at their own 20-yard line. The Bears controlled the first quarter of play primarily by using their rushing attack with Jason Bates, Adrian Flores and Adrian swapping out on carries fighting for yardage mixed with an additional air assault from Adrian who connected with Marcus Crumpton and Levi Hall to push the ball slowly downfield. The Lions defensive front allowed the Bears to move the ball across mid-field deep down to the Lions red zone before raising to the challenge and stepping up for the defensive stop. After a penalty against the Bears moved the ball back to the 23-yard line on second down, the Bears found themselves facing third down and fifteen yards. With the snap of the ball Adrain was met for the stop and a one yard loss in the backfield by Cannon Alexander and Tre Tranum leaving the hard fought possession and long time assuming drive facing fourth down and sixteen. Electing to fight for the score proved unsuccessful as Tatt Huffman, Lathan Holliday and Tanner Upton broke their way across the defensive line to sack Adrian and turning the ball over on downs to the Lions at the Bears 45-yard line as the first quarter of play came to a close.
Ethan Nichols and the Lions offensive front took to field for their first possession of the game to open the second quarter of play. With the snap of the ball Benton took the hand-off around the right side of the line of scrimmage fighting his way across mid-field to the Bears 38-yard line for a seventeen yard gain. Sticking with the rushing attack, Upton took the hand-off for an additional fourteen yard gain on first down fighting to the 24-yard line for another quick first down, followed by Benton who pushed the ball deeper to the 14-yard line on first down before Seth Green and Bates could make the stop after an additional ten yard gain. Holliday continued the rushing attack with Will Hanner making the stop leaving the Lions facing second down deep inside the Bears red zone at the 13-yard line. Upton was called upon to continue the rushing attack taking the ball to the 1-yard line where he was ruled down just short of the goal line leaving the Lions facing first and goal. Benton wasted little time of the clock by taking the ball to the end zone and following the successful two point conversion on the PAT, with Trey Snow making the pass reception the Lions were first on the scoreboard 8 - 0.
Benton's ensuing kick was received at the 2-yard line by Bates who was met at the 36-yard line for the stop by Snow and Huffman. Bates took the hand-off out of the backfield on first down racing up field where he was brought down by Huffman and Nichols at the 50-yard line. Flores got the call to rush on first down but he was met at the line of scrimmage for the stop by Tranum, Upton and Huffman and following a penalty flag prior to the snap the Bears were moved back to their own 45-yard line. With the snap of the ball Flores brought the ball around the left side but was met immediately by Ryan Brubaker resulting in a two yard loss. Adrian called his own number on third down but Alexander and Huffman remained in position to make the stop after a two yard gain resulting in Flores punting the ball away on fourth down.
Flores' punt sailed high and out of bounds setting the Lions offense up at their own 48-yard line. First down brought Upton with the hand-off around the left end for an eight yard gain followed by Holliday rushing up the middle for the first down at the Bears 31-yard line. With the snap of the ball, Benton pushed the Bears back deeper by scurrying around the right end to the 22-yard line before R.J. Hart could make the saving tackle. Facing second down and nine yards, Benton connected thru the air on the passing attack with Snow in the end zone for the score. The PAT kick by Benton with Nichols holding and Tranum snapping was perfect and the Lions were leading 15 - 0 with 4:04 remaining in the first half.
R. J. Hart made the reception on Benton's ensuing kick at the 16-yard line and was met by Upton and Hunter Berryhill for the stop at the 34-yard line. Sticking with Bates on the rushing attack on first down the Bears gained six yards with Brubaker and Zach Hubbert on the stop. The keeper by Adrian on second down was unsuccessful as Huffman met him at the line of scrimmage for the stop bringing up third down and four yards at the 40-yard line. Adrian went back to the passing attack connecting with R.J. Hart on a slant pass with Hart moving the ball across mid-field to the Lions 45-yard line where Brady Tucker made the solo tackle. Reverting back to the rushing attack with Flores on the next three plays moved the ball to the Lions 33-yard line with Alexander, Huffman, Upton and Benton making the stops for the Lions. Facing second down and eight yards, Holliday fought across the defensive line and sacked Adrian resulting in a four yard loss and setting up third down and twelve yards. Nichols was on coverage for the Lions almost intercepting a pass which was intended for Bates leaving the Bears facing fourth down. With time ticking-off the clock to close out the first half, the Bears were determined to find the end zone for the score but once again Nichols stepped-up and intercepted Adrian's pass at the 7-yard line as time expired.
R.J. Hart's second half opening kick was fielded at the 34-yard line by Holliday who was met by Melvin Mayo at the 46-yard line for the stop. Upton took the ball around the left side of the line of scrimmage on first down and was met for the stop by Will Hanner. With the snap of the ball, Benton pushed the ball deeper into the Bears territory but the Lions were penalized for holding, moving the ball back to the 39-yard line. On the replay of down, Benton once again took the sweep around the right end where he was stopped at the 33-yard line. Following a time-out for an injury the Lions were moved back to the Bears 47-yard line for an illegal block on the play setting up second down and twenty-three yards. Holliday took the hand-off up the middle for a first down at the 39-yard line and with the snap of the ball Benton continued the rushing attack taking the ball up the middle fighting off would be tacklers and cutting to the outside where he was ruled out of bounds just shy of the goal line. Holliday finished the drive by taking the ball into the end zone for the touchdown and following the perfect kick by Benton on the PAT the Lions were building their lead 22 - 0 with 9:02 remaining in the third quarter.
R.J. Hart made the reception on Benton's ensuing kick at the 3-yard line fighting his way up-field to the Lions 47-yard line where Benton made the saving tackle. The Lions were penalized on the kick return moving the ball deeper to their own 32-yard line. First down brought R.J. Hart with the carry out of the backfield but Benton, Huffman and Upton made the stop resulting in no gain on the play. On second down R.J. Hart took the pitch-out from Adrian but Brubaker, Zach Hubbert and Benton were on the stop after a two yard gain. Reverting to the passing game on third down was unsuccessful as Adrian and R.J. Hart could connect bringing up fourth down and twelve yards for the Bears. Electing to fight for the yardage, Adrian found himself surrounded by Tranum, Z. Hubbert, Huffman and Upton for the sack at the Bears 39-yard line.
Nichols and the Lions offensive front took over possession and on first down Nichols called upon Brubaker for a deep pass connection with Brubaker racing down field where officials ruled him out of bounds inside the 1-yard line. With the nose of the ball resting near the goal line, Nichols called his own number and fought his way standing straight up to the end zone for the quick score. Benton's kick on the PAT was perfectly executed and the Lions lead increased to 29 - 0 with 6:20 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bears started their next possession at their own 38-yard line after Melvin Mayo was brought down by Huffman, Holliday, and a host of others for the stop at the 38-yard line. Bates took the hand-off on first down tripping and sliding down after a five yard gain. Adrian connected on a pass with R.J. Hart on second down giving the Bears a first down at the Lions 49-yard line before additional misery struck for Bears offensive front. The ball was mishandled on first down but the Bears managed to make the recovery and on second down penalty flags moved the ball further back leaving the Bears facing second down and nineteen yards at their own 42-yard line. Adrian called his own number on the replay of down but Huffman remained in position for the solo tackle at the 48-yard line. Following an incomplete pass with B. Tucker on coverage for the Lions, the Bears were facing fourth down, facing Adrian to punt the ball away.
Snow made the reception setting the Lions up at their own 24-yard line and on first down Nichols with a keeper advanced around the right end for a first down at the 41-yard line. Attempting to catch the Bears secondary off-guard, Nichols attempted a pass connection with Brubaker but R.J. Hart was in position for the break-up. Second down brought Upton out of the backfield with the rushing attack for a six yard gain and on third down, Holliday fought his way up the middle to the Bears 47-yard line for the first down. With the snap of the ball, Nichols connected with Benton thru the air with Benton racing untouched for the quick six with only 13.7 minutes remaining in the quarter. The PAT kick sailed outside of the uprights and the score stood at 35 - 0 in favor of the visiting Lions.
Flores fielded Benton's ensuing kick at the 9-yard line and raced out of bounds at the 30-yard line setting Adrian and the Bears up for their first score of the game. Brett Wright and Upton made the stop on first down after Flores rushed for a five yard gain as the third quarter came to a close. Adrian called his own number on second down but was met for the stop by Upton, Huffman and Snow after a two-yard gain. Ethan Hunter got the call to fight for yardage and was met at the first down marker for the stop by Tristan Nairemore, Austin Tucker and others. First down brought Bates out of the backfield with the carry but Huffman met him for the stop and no gain. Nairemore, Z. Hubbert, A. Tucker and Bush met Bates for the take down on second down leaving the Bears facing third down and six-yards at their own 45-yard line. Adrian went to the passing attack and connected with R.J. Hart deep down the side lines with Hart advancing to the Lions 25-yard line before Nichols could make the saving tackle. With the snap of the ball, Bates took the hand-off over the right side of the line of scrimmage where Upton and Huffman brought him down after a one yard gain. Adrian connected with R.J. Hart thru the air on second down for the score with 7:02 remaining in the game. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful and the scoreboard read 35 - 6 in favor of the Lions.
Nichols lined up deep to receive the ensuing kick from Will Hall but the kick sailed out of bounds at the Lions 40-yard line. Brubaker relieved Nichols as quarterback for the Lions and Coach Lamar Harris sent in additional substitutes giving other players an opportunity for action on the field. Upton took the hand-off on first down around the right side for a nine yard gain and Snow fought his way out of the backfield rushing straight up the middle for the first down deep down field at the Bears 23-yard line. Holliday took the hand-off on first down moving the ball around the right side of the line where he was met by W. Hanner and a host of other Bears for the stop just beyond the 15-yard line. The ball was fumbled on the exchange with W. Hanner making the recovery for the Bears scooping the ball off the grass and racing up-field to the 42-yard line.
First down brought Flores with the hand-off up the middle racing untouched to the end zone for the quick score with 4:42 remaining in the contest. The two-point conversion was once again unsuccessful and the score stood 35 - 12 with the Lions leading.
W. Hall's kick sailed high and out of bounds setting the Lions up at their own 35-yard line for their last offensive possession of the game. Upton got the call to fight for yardage taking the hand-off around the right end and down field to the Bears 24-yard line but the ball was moved back to the 30-yard line as the result of a penalty on the Lions. On the replay of down, Upton once again took the hand-off but was met in the backfield for the stop. Sticking with Upton on the rushing attack, the Lions moved the ball to the 33-yard line setting up third down with Holliday fighting his way up the middle for the first down at the 47-yard line. Snow advanced the ball across mid-field to the Bears 44-yard line with the snap of the ball and on second down Upton took the ball over the right hand side of the line of scrimmage where he was met for the stop by R.J. Hart and others as time expired on the game clock.
The Lions will host the Woodville Panthers of Region 6 in the first round of the play-offs at Wiley Hollingsworth Stadium on Friday night, November 4th. Game time is 7:00p.m.
Comments from Head Coach Lamar Harris:
"The game tonight just started off as a real strange game for our team in a number of ways. Our defense allowed their offense to literally hold the ball the entire first quarter, but at the same time we didn't allow them to score any points. It was just an unusual first quarter of play and the guys just didn't seem to adjust to the game very quickly tonight. I'm not exactly sure what the reason for the shake-up was but it was something we aren't accustomed to as we take to the field. The guys did manage to shake it off and we then took our first offensive possession quickly downfield and scored early on in the second quarter. Following the quick score our defense took a stand and held and once again allowing us to score quickly and taking the shut-out lead to the locker room at the half. After returning to the field following our locker room experience the guys seemed more adjusted and confident and played to our standards through-out the second half and I'm very thankful for that. We took advantage of the adjustments and secured our game plan in the third quarter and that allowed us to use some of our guys in different positions as well as allowing for some of the other guys who rarely have the opportunity to play the opportunity to hit the field. I'm proud of this group of guys for the hard work and the discipline which they have exhibited this season and the results have paid off by securing the Northwest Alabama Conference Championship. That's an accomplishment which they can always treasure and they will be able to look back upon in years to come as they continue to grow. Once they have graduated and departed from the team, they will always have that outstanding accomplishment to remember and to share with others. We as a team have remained dedicated, determined and disciplined and the results are paying off as we continue our season in the play-offs. I'm just proud of this group of young men and I'm thankful for the opportunity to be a part of their success."