Advancing to the third round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association play-offs the Lions faced the undefeated Addison Bulldogs of Region 7 on Friday night. The Lions brought excitement to the home-standing crowd on the opening kick-off return as Dax Benton made the reception at the 17-yard line rambling across mid-field and down the left side line to the Addison 40-yard line before Noah Rice chased him down for the stop.
The crowd came to a hush following the take-down as Benton was injured on the saving tackle. Benton who had been fighting an ankle and foot injury throughout the later part of the season was forced to the bench setting-out on the opening drive while having his ankle examined and re-wrapped by trainers prior to taking to the field later in the opening quarter.
The Bulldogs won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half giving the Lions the opportunity to open the game with the offensive possession. The opening possession came to a stall after the Bulldogs defense held on fourth down and three turning the ball over on downs. Rice and the Bulldogs offensive front found themselves in a four and out possession after the Lions defense refused to allow even one yard on the opening possession forcing Zeb Maze to line-up and punt the ball away with Trey Snow signaling for a fair-catch on the punt for the Lions at their own 37-yard line.
Before the play could be executed the Lions were penalized for an illegal procedure infraction moving the ball back to the 32-yard line. On the replay of down, Ethan Nichols slipped on the exchange and was brought down in the backfield living the Lions facing second down and eighteen yards at their own 29-yard line. Following a rushing attack gain of three yards by Lathan Holliday on second down, Nichols once again found himself down in the backfield living the Lions facing fourth down sending Holliday back to punt the ball away.
Hollidays punt rolled dead at the Addison 37-yard line where Rice and the Bulldogs began their second possession of the game. First down brought Oakley Gilbreath out of the backfield with the ball but Cannon Alexander, Tanner Upton, Brett Wright and others were in position for the stop resulting in no gain on the play. Holliday and Upton remained in position for the stop on Rice on second down leaving the Bulldogs facing third down and ten yards at their own 37-yard line. With the snap of the ball, Rice went to the passing game in an attempt to catch the Lion defenders off guard but the pass fell incomplete bringing up fourth down for the visiting Bulldogs. Maze once again lined up and punted the ball away with the ball coming to a dead roll at the Lions 30-yard line.
Benton returned to the line-up for the Lions and on first down took the hand-off around the left end for a two yard gain where he was met by Dayson Parker and William Guthrie for the stop. With the snap of the ball Benton rambled around the right side of the line fighting for an additional three yard gain leaving the Lions facing third down and five yards. Sticking with Benton on the rushing attack proved successful as Benton rambled over right tackle for the first down at the 44-yard line with Parker making the solo tackle. With the drive remaining alive, Benton attacked the right side of the line once again advancing deeper on the Bulldogs moving across mid-field to the 46-yard line for back-to-back first down rushing attacks before Rice and Micah James could make the tackle. Holliday got the call to continue the rushing attack on first down but he was met immediately at the line of scrimmage for the stop by Jake Wilson, Maze and others. The Lions had a miscue on second down but Benton quickly recovered the fumble at the Bulldogs 49-yard line bringing up third down and thirteen. Lions Head Coach Lamar Harris called for a time-out and following the break in play, Benton took the ball up the middle but was met at the line of scrimmage by Benjamin Robinson, Caleb Webb, Maze and others as time expired on the opening quarter. Facing fourth down and thirteen yards, Holliday once again punted the ball away with Chandler Cookenmaster back to receive for Addison. The Lions were penalized for an interference on the punt reception moving the ball up field to the 33-yard line.
First down brought Maze out of the backfield with the carry but Upton and Tre Tranum were on the stop after a four yard gain. Sticking with Maze on the rushing attack on second down the Bulldogs moved the ball across the mid-field stripe making the first down of the game with the nose of the ball resting near the Lions 47-yard line. Rice called his own number on first down and rambled around in the backfield fighting away from would be tacklers before cutting back up the middle and racing to the end zone for the first score of the contest with 10:48 remaining in the opening half. Maze attempted the PAT kick but the ball didn't make it thru the uprights and the score stood 6 - 0 in favor of the visiting Bulldogs.
Benton, Tre Snow and Upton lined-up to receive the ensuing kick from Maze with Benton making the reception at the 10-yard line and fighting his way to the 23-yard line where Guthrie and Trace Thompson were on the stop. Benton took the snap on first down fighting over the left side and cutting back up the middle to the 35-yard line where Guthrie and Rice brought him down. With a new set of downs, Upton got the call to fight for yardage with Matthew Mann and others on the stop. Second down brought Benton around the right end advancing the ball five yards and on third down Nichols attempted a pass connection to Upton but Rice made the interception turning the ball over to the Bulldogs at their own 47-yard line.
Rice was met in the backfield on first down by Benton, Upton and Zach Hubbert for a one yard loss and on second down Maze fought to get the yard back but Alexander, Tranum and Benton were on the stop leaving the Dogs facing third down and ten yards. Rice called his own number once again but found Tatt Huffman on him quickly for the take-down bringing up fourth down and ten yards and forcing Maze to punt the ball away once again.
Snow made the fair catch signal on the punt and following the play the Lions were moved back an additional five yards placing the ball at their own 11-yard line for the possession. Upton gained a yard on first down with Benton taking the snap over the middle for an additional three yards on second down. Ryan Brubaker took the reverse around the left side line advancing the ball across mid-field but officials ruled him as stepping out of bounds at the 49-yard line. On first down Holliday took the hand-off up the middle for a one yard gain with James and others on the stop. With the snap of the ball Benton raced around the right end to the 44-yard line where he was met for the stop by Mann bringing up third down and three yards. Upton took the hand-off up the middle with Maze, James and others making the stop just short of the first down marker. Following the official measurement, the Lions elected to fight for the needed yardage with Holliday taking the ball over the left side where Maze, James Wilson Gunnin and others made the stop turning the ball over to the Bulldogs at their own 42-yard line.
Maze fought his way over the right side on first down with Brubaker making the solo tackle for the Lions after a two yard gain. The Lions jumped off-sides on second down moving the ball an additional five yards and on the replay of down, Rice called his own number fighting around the right side of the line. The Lions were penalized for an illegal block during the rushing attack moving the ball deeper to the Lions 42-yard line. Rice once again called his own number and fought his way around the right side before cutting back up the middle racing untouched into the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the game. Following the unsuccessful two point conversion attempt with a pass in the left hand corner of the end zone, with 2:03 remaining in the first half the score stood in favor of the Bulldogs 12 - 0.
Mazes ensuing kick was fielded at the sixteen yard line by Benton who advanced to the 31-yard line where Parker made the solo stop. Benton took the snap and raced around the right end on first down advancing deeper but the play was called back and the Lions were once again penalized for an illegal procedure. Facing first and fifteen at their own 26-yard line, Upton fought for an additional three yards and on second down Cookenmaster intercepted the pass returning the ball to the Lions 24-yard line giving the Bulldogs an excellent opportunity to put additional points on the scoreboard before the half-time break.
Rice attempted a quick pass to Logan Wilkins but the ball sailed incomplete and on second down Rice went back to Wilkins with another attempt to pickup quick yardage but Brady Tucker was in position knocking the ball away from the hands of Wilkins bringing up third down and ten yards. With the snap of the ball the Bulldogs were penalized for an illegal procedure infraction moving the ball back to the twenty-eight yard line. On the replay of down, Cookenmaster took the hand-off over the right side of the line for an eleven yard gain with Huffman making the saving tackle leaving 21.0 seconds on the clock. Facing fourth down and four yards, Maze got the call to attempt a field goal and he sent the ball down the middle of the up rights for the additional points increasing the Bulldogs lead to 15 - 0.
Holliday made the reception on the ensuing kick from Maze at the thirty-one yard line advancing five yards before Maze, William Benton, Cookenmaster and others made the take-down. First down brought Benton scrambling out of the backfield but Cookenmaster remained in position for the tackle as time expired on the first half of play.
Returning to the field from the half-time break the Bulldogs received the second half opening kick from Benton with Cookenmaster making the reception at the 8-yard line advancing out to the 21-yard line where Huffman and Wright were on the stop for the Lions. Rice picked up five yards on the rushing attack on first down with Benton on the solo stop and on second down Cookenmaster found himself down in the backfield after Huffman and Upton broke across the line for the stop resulting in a three yard loss. Rice connected on a short pass with Cookenmaster on third down but Holliday and Huffman brought him to the ground quickly leaving the Bulldogs facing fourth down and eight yards at their own 23-yard line. Maze dropped back and punted the ball away with Benton signaling for a fair catch at the Lions 45-yard line.
First down brought Upton out of the back field with the carry but he was met at the line of scrimmage by Maze, Mann, James and others resulting in no gain on the play. Benton took the snap on second down and went deep down field with the passing attack connecting with Zach Hubbert who rambled to the 5-yard line with Guthrie and Cookemaster making the saving tackle. On first down Benton took the ball straight up the middle standing up for the touchdown with 8:46 remaining in the third quarter. On the two-point conversion attempt following the score, Benton once again found the end zone lighting the Lions side of the scoreboard up with eight points.
The ensuing kick by Benton was fielded at the 31-yard line by Wilkins who was met by Brubaker and Huffman for the stop at the Bulldogs 44-yard line. First down brought Guthrie with the hand-off over the left side of the line but Benton made the tackle leaving the Bulldogs facing second down and eight yards. Rice called his own number but was met immediately for the stop by Nichols. Third down brought additional misery for the Bulldogs as they found themselves penalized for an illegal procedure infraction moving the ball back and additional five yards resulting in a time-out from the Bulldogs coaching staff. On the replay of downs, Rice went to the air attack connecting with Wilkins who rambled his way to the Lions 37-yard line before Snow could bring him down for the stop. Keeping the drive alive, Cookenmaster took the hand-off out of the backfield for an additional five yards with Upton making the solo tackle. Second down brought Rice around the right end with the rushing attack picking up the first down before Huffman and Upton were on the stop. Facing first down just inside the Lions red zone, Benjamin Robinson took the hand-off but was met immediately by Upton for no-gain on the play. Sticking with Robinson on the rushing attack paid-off for the Bulldogs as two plays later he took the hand-off into the end zone for the score with 3:54 remaining in the quarter. Rice called his own number on the two-point conversion attempt and took the ball across the goal leaving the score 23 - 8 in favor of the Bulldogs.
Mazes ensuing kick was fielded at the 18-yard line by Upton who fought his way out to the 38-yard line with James, Mann and a host of others on the take down. First down brought Rice and Jake Wilson into the backfield for the stop on Benton resulting in a one yard loss. Benton was determined to regain the yardage and with the snap of the ball he advanced up field racing to the Bulldogs 42-yard line for the first down before Cookenmaster could bring him down for the stop. First down brought Upton out of the backfield for a six yard gain and on second down Holliday advanced the ball for an additional two yards with Guthrie, Maze, Rice and others on the stop. Facing third down and two yards, Benton took the ball up the middle fighting his way to the twenty five yard line before Rice could make the saving stop. On first down Upton took the hand-off for an additional yard leaving the Lions facing second down and nine yards just inside the Bulldogs red zone at the twenty four yard line. Benton went back to the passing attack and connected with Upton who rambled his way into the end zone for the score with 8.5 seconds remaining in the third quarter of play. The Lions were denied the additional two points on the PAT attempt as Benton was held just shy of the goal line leaving the score 23 - 14.
Tre Tranum booted the ensuing kick to the 22-yard line where Braxton Preuitt made the reception and raced up the side line to the 49-yard line where B. Tucker made the stop as the third quarter came to a close. Robinson took the hand-off on first down picking up two yards with Upton, Austin Tucker, Huffman and others making the tackle. Sticking with Robinson on the rushing attack on second down was unsuccessful as Upton met him in the backfield for a two yard loss leaving the Bulldogs facing third down. Rice attempted to catch the Lion defenders off guard but Nichols intercepted his pass downfield and rig-zaged his way back to the Bulldogs 11-yard line before being brought down.
On first down Upton fought over the middle for a five yard gain with Rice, Maze and Mann on the stop. Facing second down and five yards at the 6-yard line the Lions called for a time-out. Following the time-out, Benton took the ball and raced into the end zone untouched for the turn-over touchdown with 9:27 remaining in the game. The two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful as the pass connection with Z. Hubbert over the middle was broken-up leaving the score standing at 23 - 20 in favor of the visiting Bulldogs.
Rice stood deep to receive the ensuing kick from Benton making the reception just short of the 10-yard line and advancing to the Bulldogs 39-yard line where Holliday and Benton made the stop. First down brought penalty flags against the Lions for jumping off-sides moving the ball forward five yards. On the replay of down, Maze took the hand-off out of the backfield fighting over the right side of the line for another first down at mid-field before Upton, Snow and others could bring him down. Sticking with Maze on the rushing attack, with the snap of the ball the Bulldogs moved deeper with Tranum and Snow making the tackle on Maze at the 44-yard line. Second down brought penalty flags against the Bulldogs for an illegal procedure moving the ball back to the 49-yard line. Facing second down, Maze continued his rushing attacks taking the ball over the left hand side for the first down deep down field at the Lions 26-yard line before Nichols and others could bring him to the ground. On first down Rice called his own number picking up an additional two yards with Alexander and Tranum on the stop and on second down Rice again carried the ball but he was met at the line of scrimmage for the stop by Benton, Alexander, Upton and Austin Tucker leaving the Bulldogs facing third down and nine yards at the 23-yard line. Penalty flags moved the ball back and additional five yards and on the replay of down, Rice connected on a short pass in the backfield with Cookenmaster who fumbled the ball but managed to recover advancing the ball to the 13-yard line for the first down before Nichols and Benton could make the saving tackle. First down brought Cookenmaster out of the backfield with the rushing attack up the middle with A. Tucker making the solo tackle at the 9-yard line. Facing second down deep in the Lions red zone the Bulldogs found themselves being penalized once again for an illegal procedure moving the ball back to the 14-yard line. With the snap of the ball Robinson was met immediately in the backfield by Alexander, Huffman, Tranum and others for the stop resulting in a one yard loss. Cookenmaster was brought down in the backfield by Holliday, Upton, Huffman, and others on third down leaving the Bulldogs calling for a time-out. Facing fourth down and eleven yards at the 15 yard line, Rice attempted a pass connection in the end zone with Wilkins but Nichols remained in position knocking the ball out of reach and turning the ball over on downs to the Lions deep in their own territory.
Nichols went to the passing attack in an attempt to connect with Brubaker on first down but Gage Gilliland was on coverage for the break-up. Benton took the direct snap on second down advancing over the left side of the line for a three yard gain with Maze and Rice on the stop. Facing third down and seven yards, Benton attempted a pass back across the middle which was picked-off by Rice who then laddered the ball off to Guthrie who advanced his way back down field reaching the 20-yard line before being stopped by Brubaker.
First down brought Rice up the middle with the keeper with Devin Bush, Holliday and Tranum on the stop after a six yard gain. Maze got the call to fight for the needed yardage and took the ball up the middle with A. Tucker, Alexander, Tranum and Huffman making the stop leaving the Bulldogs facing third down and inches near the 10-yard line. The Addison coaches called for a time-out and when play resumed, Maze bulldozed his body forward fighting his way into the end zone for the final touchdown of the game with only 1:14 remaining on the game clock. The PAT kick by Maze sailed perfectly thru the center of the uprights and the scoreboard read 30 -20 in favor of the visiting Bulldogs.
Snow, Benton and Upton lined up deep to receive the ensuing kick from Maze with Brubaker making the reception at the 27-yard line. First down brought Benton rambling around in the backfield in an attempt to find an open receiver but he ended up having to tuck the ball and rush for no gain with Parker and others making the stop at the line of scrimmage. On second down Nichols connected with Snow with the passing attack with snow laddering the ball off to Benton who rambled his way down to the 46-yard line before he was stopped. With time an issue, Benton took the snap and went deep down field in an attempt to connect thru the air with Z. Hubbert but the pass was broken up as time expired leaving the undefeated Bulldogs moving on to the face-off in the Semi-Finals against the Pickens County Tornadoes who are the top seeded team of Region 5. The game will take place on the campus of Pickens County High School in Reform.
Comments from Head Coach Lamar Harris:
"We just couldn't find our "playing rhythm" early-on the field in the game tonight. The first half of the game we played way out of our content, I haven't seen our guys this far out of sync in a game of this magnitude at any point in this years season. Of course when you make it this far into the play-offs, you're going to find yourself up against the best there is to play on Friday nights. Letting ourselves go into the locker room at the half time break with a two touchdown deficient really took some of the wind out of our guys, but I will say that I knew we could return to the field following the break and compete and bring the game back to within our reach. The guys did exactly what was asked of them by us during the half-time break and when we did return they had that great defensive stop on the opening possession and three plays later we took the ball to the end zone for the score. That brought our momentum back but at the same time we allowed Addison to march right back down the field and score on their ensuing possession. We just couldn't contain their attack and stop them on the defensive side of the ball when we really needed too. But I will add that our guys never gave up and they dug deep and fought until the very end making the game exciting up until we had the costly turn-over which allowed Addison to take the ten point lead. It's hard to win a ball game when you allow for three turn-overs in any game but it's even harder when you're at this point of play in the season. I was disappointed that Dax Benton re-injured his foot there on the opening kick-off and I just feel as though had that injury not have happened his mobility would have been much better throughout the game. But Dax is an outstanding athlete, he fought hard tonight without a doubt but the re-injury was obvious for his mobility and to top it off we couldn't allow him to kick once we had to re-tape and re-wrap his foot because of the fact that he couldn't change over to his kicking shoe. Addison is a great football team with some very athletic players in different skilled positions. We knew that prior to tonight's game and we knew what they would bring to the field. It hurt to lose without doubt..... but I am extremely proud of this group of players for buying into what we expected as coaches and for sticking together as a team all throughout the season. We haven't had anyone to walk away from the team since the start and that speaks volumes for this group of players. It's been a great season, they're a great bunch of guys and they've been well disciplined and a pleasure to coach. I'm thankful for the leadership of the senior class. Those seven guys have done all that we've asked as a coaching staff, they've walked the line and stood the ground mentoring our younger guys. When we started the season there were some strong doubts from many other critics in our area but deep down I personally knew if this group of senior players would do what was asked of them, we could reach our goals. These seven senior players will be solely missed here at Hub not only for their athletic skills and their leadership attributes but they'll be missed because of their hard-fought determination and dedication to our program and to our younger athletes. I'll close by commending our Cheerleaders, Band and dedicated fan base for their tremendous spirit and dedicated support. I'm proud to have the opportunity to continue leading the Lions on the field each Friday night and the support of the loyal fan base pays dividends to our program here at Hubbertville."