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In the battle of the two winningest coaches in the history of Alabama high school football, No. 1 stunned No. 2 as Terry Curtis’s fourth-seeded UMS-Wright team came to Lineville and knocked off Danny Horn’s top-seeded Clay Central 7-0 in Friday’s Class 5A first-round playoff game.
The two coaches drummed up a dueling defensive masterpiece in which the teams combined for 18 punts and just 11 first downs.
If the game were scored purely on yardage gained it would have been Central in a (relative) landslide as the Vols put up 180 yards and held the Bulldogs to 70. Central generated eight first downs and had the longest play of the night – a 32 yard run by DaMauri Whetstone early in the contest.
UMS-Wright had just three first downs, and its longest play went for 21 yards, but that play and two of the first downs came on the game-deciding sequence in the second quarter.
A Central fumble gave UMS-Wright a first down on the Volunteers’ 25-yard line with 9:37 left in the first half. After a pair of penalties (one on each team) the Bulldogs faced a 3rd-and-20 from the 23-yard line and a potential looming decision on whether to go for it or kick a field goal. But Bulldog quarterback Joe Lott connected with tight end Ty Yance on a 21-yard pass play that gave the Bulldogs first-and-goal from the two-yard line. They punched it in two plays later on a 1-yard run by William Taylor, and those were the only points of the game.
It would be difficult to identify a legitimate scoring opportunity for the Vols, who sorely missed starting running back LaDamion Boyd. Boyd, who ran for over 1,600 yards and averaged nearly 11 yards per carry, was lost for the season with a broken leg that he suffered in the regular season finale against Wetumpka.
Whetstone finished with 109 yards on 20 carries, but the Vols could never string together enough positive plays to get a drive going.
On their second possession of the game, the Vols drove down to the UMS-Wright 20-yard line, where they were stopped on a fourth-and-1 play and turned the ball over on downs. They never got any closer to the goal line after that.
It’s a tough finish to the season for Central, which was riding high after its first-ever undefeated regular season.
For Curtis the victory was career win number 355, extending his state record and his lead over Horn in that category. Horn closes out the season with 351 career wins.
RCHS 48, W.S. Neal 36
RCHS rallied from a 17-point first quarter deficit and a 15-point halftime hole to come away with a 48-36 win over W.S. Neal in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs Friday in Wedowee.
The Tigers gave up a series of big plays as they fell behind 24-7 after the first quarter and trailed 36-21 going into the locker room.
But the RCHS defense woke up in the second half, shutting out W.S. Neal over the final two quarters as they chipped away at the lead.
Michael Ennis’s 27-yard field goal cut the lead to 36-30 late in the third quarter, and RCHS tied it on 2-yard touchdown run by Amari Molden with 7:35 remaining. The Tigers finally took the lead on a 5-yard touchdown run by Mo Winston with 2:35 left in the game and then added an exclamation point with a late 42-yard score from Winston.
Quarterback Avion Willis, who is not typically a major factor in the running game, carried the ball six times for 156 yards and was a major spark in jump-starting the Tigers’ offense.
Winston finished with 137 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries, and the Tigers also got touchdown runs from Molden and Austin Terrell.
It’s the first playoff win for RCHS since 2019, and it puts the Tigers in the second round where they will travel to Montgomery to play defending state champion St. James Friday.
Handley 68, St. Michael 38
E.J. Goss ran for 326 yards and five touchdowns as Handley put up over 500 yards on the ground in a 68-38 win over St. Michael in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs in Roanoke.
Nemo Askew added 102 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and Cannon Kyles rushed for a touchdown and threw for another as the Tigers consistently gashed St. Michael for big plays.
Goss scored on runs of 41, 4, 72, 27 and 70 yards in a game that Handley actually trailed 14-13 early on.
But from that point Handley scored the game’s next 27 points to build a 40-14 lead in the third quarter and put the game out of reach.
Kyles completed 6-of-9 passes for 76 yards and 10-yard touchdown to Jamarcus Daniel. He also ran nine times for 35 yards and a score.
Handley is now 10-1 on the season and will travel to Tuskegee to take on Booker T. Washington in the second round Friday.