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No. 3 Tuscaloosa Academy now the hunted team

Jaevon Walton leads the Knights with 663 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. (Photo by Stewart Gwin)

TUSCALOOSA | A year ago, the Tuscaloosa Academy football team was unranked when it upset No. 1 Bessemer Academy 16-12.

"It set our program apart and kind of took us to the next level," Tuscaloosa Academy coach Robert Johnson said. "It let us know that not only could we play with anybody, but we could also beat them. It was a big hump to get over. It was great to get that win last year."

In tonight’s rematch, Tuscaloosa Academy is the team that’s undefeated and is ranked No. 3 in the latest AISA poll. Bessemer Academy won the Class AAA title last year, but the Rebels are fighting for their playoff lives with a 2-3 Region 1 record.

"It’s still a good football team that we’re playing," Johnson said. "They won the state championship last year. It’s a region game, a big rivalry game, but we’re approaching it like any other game. We know they’re going to be a well-coached football team, and they’ve still got some good athletes."

Johnson said the Rebels will challenge the Tuscaloosa Academy defense with different styles.

"They’ll spread it out and throw the ball around a little and try to create space," Johnson said. "Then they’ll get in a power-I and try to jam it down your throat."

Tuscaloosa Academy’s defense is allowing 9.5 points per game.

"I think that we’ve played very well in all phases, particularly on defense," Johnson said. "Our defensive line has been sensational."

Terrell Bush and Kyle Andrews are defensive ends.

Thomas Hahn and Kwuan Whitfield start at tackle, and Pride Snow and Max Haley rotate in at end and at tackle, respectively.

"Thomas is real steady," Johnson said. "He takes on the blockers. Kwuan is a little more disruptive. Kyle is very disruptive. His motor is running all the time."

Jaevon Walton leads the Knights with 663 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Jonathan Plott has thrown for 577 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Knights are averaging 46.7 points and 422.3 yards per game.

"Our offensive line has really just dominated people up front," Johnson said. "They’ve created some nice holes for our backs."

Bush starts at left tackle with JD Diaz at left guard and Hahn at center. Whitfield starts at right guard with Haley at right tackle and Snow at tight end.

Clay Thomas, a halfback on offense, is a safety in the defensive secondary.

"Clay Thomas is playing great," Johnson said. "He’s done real well on kick returns."


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