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Pirates, Lewis off to a 2-0 start with new offensive scheme

Pickens Academy quarterback Josh Lewis. (Photo by Staff photo | Michelle Lepianka Carter)

The Pickens Academy Pirates, who went 3-7 last season, are off to a 2-0 start with junior Josh Lewis at quarterback.

Lewis is thriving in a new offensive scheme that has produced 99 points. The Pirates started with a 60-16 win over Sparta Academy of Evergreen. Lewis and teammate Joel Pratt each rushed for more than 200 yards, and the Pirates gained 523 rushing yards.

Lewis scored five touchdowns last week as Pickens Academy beat Sumter Academy 39-7. Sumter Academy was ranked No. 10 in the AISA preseason poll.

"It meant a lot," Lewis said. "We just played hard and got lucky and it opened up for us."

Lewis was used to running a veer offense with split backs, but coach John Gartman decided in the spring to go with a wing-T scheme.

"Everything has got to be perfect," Lewis said. "If I don’t make the right read, everything is messed up. I’ve been learning how to make the reads."

Lewis said that on a basic play the defensive end is left unblocked. Lewis starts to read the defense as he meshes with fullback Garrett Estes.

"If the defensive end crashes and goes for the fullback, I’ll keep it," Lewis said. "If he doesn’t crash, you leave the ball with the fullback."

Lewis picked up 232 yards and scored on a 55-yard run against Sparta Academy. Pratt gained 212 yards with touchdown runs of 79, 75 and 58 yards. Estes, who rushed for 57 yards, scored on runs of 3 and 5 yards.

In the win over Sparta Academy, Lewis rushed for 170 yards on 12 carries and scored on runs of 43, 66, 15, 5 and 31 yards.

"It’s been great," Lewis said. "We’ve been able to put up a ridiculous amount of rushing yards the past two games. We just try to use our speed to outrun folks. The offensive line is probably the most impressive part. They really opened the holes up so we could gain a lot of yards. It’s definitely the best line we’ve had in a couple of years."

Starters along the offensive front include center Hunter Booth, guards Cody Scott and Chase Britt and tackles Preston McGahey and Jamison McCrary.

Gartman admitted that the surprise element of the new offense might have helped in the first two games. He also said that Lewis and Pratt were the fastest players on the field.

When Gartman decided on the change, he talked to several coaches, including Bill McNair at Patrician Academy.

"We tried to take some of the better elements we had the last couple of years and put in the wing-T," Gartman said. "More than anything, we’ve got a couple of guys that can make it all go. Players are more important than schemes are. Josh has great speed. He played quarterback last year, so he has a lot of experience.

"We use a lot of misdirection. The offensive line has done a great job. We pull a lot of people, and our athleticism helps us get to the perimeter. It all kind of works in union and meshes well together."

Pickens Academy plays Southern Academy in Greensboro on Friday.

"We haven’t had much success throwing the football," Gartman said. "That’s something we’ve been working on this week. You need a sense of balance to really win big."

AHSAA record

Tommy Wilson, a Demopolis basketball player, decided to try out for the varsity football team as a senior and set an AHSAA record in his first game.

Wilson made an interception in the end zone last Friday and scored on the return in a 49-7 victory over American Christian Academy. Demopolis coach Tom Causey sent a tape of the play to AHSAA officials, who determined that Wilson caught the football 8 yards deep and made a record-setting return of 108 yards.

Wilson’s name is already posted on the AHSAA website.

"We tell our guys all the time that when they have a chance to score to use their judgment," Causey said. "He used his judgment to score.

"When he came out (of the end zone), the sideline was open. I never really gave it another thought once he started running with it. I figured he would be able to score once he got to our 35. (ACA lineman Logan Elliott) never gave up on the play. He made a heck of an effort. I thought Tommy might quit running too early."

Demetrius Kemp, another defensive back, scored a touchdown by recovering the football in the end zone after Tyler Merriweather blocked a punt.

"We got two non-offensive touchdowns," Causey said. "We didn’t do that last year when we went 6-5. That’s something we’ve been hammering in their heads."

Kemp, a junior, is the most experienced player in the Demopolis secondary.

"It’s his second year to start and third year to play," Causey said. "With Tommy, it’s his first year to play football, period. He brings some skills we’ve been looking for. I wish he had been in our program for three years."

Wilson plays at left cornerback. Tyler Perkins, who Causey said is a "first-year junior," is the right cornerback. Mason Rogers, a senior baseball player, is a new starter at the other safety spot.

Brookwood’s Craft out with foot injury

Brookwood coach Ricky Bush said that junior Nate Craft, a wide receiver and defensive back, might miss a couple of games because of a foot injury.

The Panthers, who opened with a 28-13 victory over Hale County, play at Fairfield in a Class 5A, Region 5 game Friday.

Tre’ Griffin is expected to replace Craft at wide receiver with Jacob Beal filling in at safety.

"Nate is an outstanding young man," Bush said. "He’s still a leader on this team. He’s doing everything he can to help the program. He’s the biggest leader I’ve had at Brookwood since I’ve been here. He’s the kind of kid you want to coach."

TA vaults into top 10

Tuscaloosa Academy, unranked in the AISA preseason poll, moved into the No. 8 slot this week. The Knights improved to 2-0 by routing Lyman Ward Military Academy 69-21.

Tuscaloosa Academy scored six touchdowns in the first quarter, two on runs of 67 and 66 yards by Jaevon Walton.

Tuscaloosa Academy travels to play Macon East Academy (2-0) Friday.


Reach Andrew Carroll at or at 205-722-0223.