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Going to the Dance

Posted Monday, October 26, 2009 by Lionel Green

Going to the dance


Published October 24, 2009

The Albertville Aggies faced two choices Friday night: Lose and they stay home for the playoffs, or win and they were in.

The Aggies didn’t want to stay home.

Albertville ground out a gritty 14-12 victory over the Arab Knights on McCord Field at Aggie Stadium in a must-win Class 5A, Region 7 game.

The victory qualified the Aggies (5-4 overall, 4-3 region) for the state playoffs as the No. 4 and final seed in the region. Albertville will visit Hartselle in a first-round game Nov. 6.

The loss eliminated the Knights (4-5, 3-4) from the postseason.

Albertville head coach Joel Poole talked to his players before Friday’s game and left no doubt about its importance.

“We told them we’re playing for the playoffs,” Poole said. “They knew it. I can’t say enough about them. Our goal when we first got here was to be in the state playoffs. It looks like we did it, but we’ve got a long ways to go.”

Poole, whose son plays on the Arab football team, indicated the game was emotional on a number of levels.

“It’s not often in your life that you know just about everybody on both teams,” he said. “It’s tough. I feel for them, but I feel better for us.

“We’ve got some kids beat up. Hopefully, we can get well this week. That’s going to be important for us going into the playoffs.”

The Aggies looked sharp on both sides of the ball in the first two quarters, leading 14-0 at halftime.

Albertville signal-caller Michael Reeves scored on a 15-yard quarterback draw play up the middle to give Albertville a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. A 22-yard pass from Reeves to Dareon Thompson keyed the 54-yard touchdown drive.

Thompson injured his ankle on the play and watched the second half from the sidelines on crutches.

“It’s an ankle twist,” he said. “I’ll be back next week. The defense did a great stop at the end of the game. I’m proud of the defense. And Jaron Looney did good too.”

In the second quarter, T.J. Pams recovered an Arab fumble on the Aggie 32. Four plays later, Reeves threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Pams on a ball that ricocheted off the hands of T.J. Vines. Nathan Spence drilled his second point-after kick of the night for a 14-0 Albertville lead.

Spence’s extra points proved critical for the Aggies.

In the second half, Arab stormed back with touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters to cut the lead to 14-12.

Knights quarterback Jonathan Embry sneaked in from 1 yard out late in the third quarter to trim the lead to 14-6. Arab missed the extra point but an Albertville player was flagged for roughing the kicker, who left the game injured. The Knights tried a 2-point run from the 1-yard line, but the Aggie defense stuffed Embry for no gain.

In the fourth quarter, Embry scored again on a 55-yard sprint on an option keeper. The 2-point conversion pass failed, and Albertville clung to a 14-12 lead with 6:07 left in the game.

Arab forced the Aggies to punt twice in the final six minutes, but the Albertville defense would not break.

The Knights received possession of the ball one final time on their own 16 with 28 seconds remaining. Embry completed one 11-yard pass to the 27.

After two incompletions, Albertville’s Jacob Champion sealed the win when he recovered an Embry fumble with 1.3 seconds left in the game.

The Aggies are in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

“We knew all the playoff scenarios,” senior defensive lineman Mikey Hood said. “We come out and play every game to win, but when you know you have that much emphasis on it, you’re going to go out there and win it.

“I just want to thank (The Reporter’s sports editor) Shannon Allen for picking Arab and giving us that much more of a reason to stick it to him.”

Senior offensive lineman Zach Underwood carried the game ball off the field.

“It was a playoff atmosphere,” he said. “It was a great feeling on senior night to clinch a playoff berth.”

Senior offensive lineman Will Tidmore waxed poetic about the meaning of Friday’s win.

“This is like a speck on that line on the tombstones where people died, and they have that dash in between the two dates,” he said. “This is a speck of that line and a speck that will always be remembered on that line.

“All I can say is thank God.”

Reeves finished 5-of-13 passing for 69 yards and rushed for 51 yards. Tyree Roberts led all rushers with 21 carries for 142 yards.

Vines snagged an interception in the first quarter for the Aggies.

Embry completed nine of 19 passes for 138 yards and rushed for 96 yards.

Albertville visits Guntersville next Friday, and Arab hosts Brindlee Mountain in regular season finales.

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