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Knights looking to make history


Tuscaloosa Academy quarterback Jonathan Plott has thrown for 1,151 yards and 19 touchdowns. (Photo by Betsy Seymour)


TUSCALOOSA | On a hot August night, the unranked Tuscaloosa Academy football team opened the season by beating No. 9 Lee-Scott Academy.

The same two teams close out the season Friday as Tuscaloosa Academy (12-0) faces the Warriors (11-1) in the AISA Class AAA championship game. Kickoff is set for noon at Troy University.

For the Tuscaloosa Academy seniors, it’s a chance to make history by winning their first championship in football. In 1991, the Knights finished second in an AISA final, losing 48-17 to Morgan Academy in Class AAA.

Thomas Hahn, a center and nose guard, is one of five seniors who have attended Tuscaloosa Academy for more than 12 years. The others are quarterback Jonathan Plott; guard and linebacker JD Diaz; running back and defensive back Jonathan Teesdale; and defensive back Carter Standeffer. The other seniors are offensive and defensive lineman Max Haley; running back and defensive back Clay Thomas; defensive back and wide receiver Parker Farley; defensive end and split end Kyle Andrews; linebacker Will Atkinson; linebacker Dillon Anderson; and linebacker and offensive tackle Taylor White.

Hahn missed two games because of a knee injury, but he plans on playing Friday.

"It feels good right now, but you’ve still got to go in on Friday and finish the business," Hahn said. "I’m excited about being able to play in it, but I’m really thinking about taking it as the next game, preparing like I would any other game and go in there the same way, trying to get the win.

"I just want to win state. That’s what the goal’s been since the beginning of the year. I missed a couple of games, but it felt great to come back. It’s all about getting that win on Friday."

Tuscaloosa Academy’s offense averages 42.5 points and 419.8 yards per game.

"We just have a bunch of great players on offense," Hahn said. "You can’t really focus on one guy. You have to defend everybody, and that just puts a lot on a defense. You’ve got Pride (Snow) at tight end. You’ve got Teesdale at wingback, Clay at running back, Jaevon (Walton) at fullback, Parker at wide receiver. You’ve got to cover all those guys. It’s really tough on a defense."

Walton, a junior, leads the Knights with 1,557 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns. Thomas has 997 yards and seven rushing touchdowns.

Snow has 14 catches for 355 yards and four touchdowns. Farley has 13 catches for 314 yards and seven touchdowns. Teesdale has nine catches for 204 yards and five touchdowns.

"It really makes it easy on me as a quarterback to have a great offensive line up front and then have just multiple weapons," said Plott, who has thrown for 1,151 yards and 19 touchdowns. "Parker Farley, Jonathan Teesdale, Clay Thomas, Jaevon Walton and Pride Snow, they’re just all great. I trust every one of them to make plays every time."

Tuscaloosa Academy’s defense is allowing 11.5 points per game. The Knights started the playoffs with a 28-8 win over Escambia Academy and downed Fort Dale Academy 34-0 last week.

"It would mean a lot to us, considering that we’ve been in this program since the sixth grade," Standeffer said. "We all stuck together. We haven’t left. I’m really excited for this game. I’m excited for us to represent our school in the state championship game. I just hope all the fans get out there and support us and we do what we set out to do."

Robert Johnson, Tuscaloosa Academy’s second-year head coach, said the Warriors are better than they were in August.

"They might have overlooked us the first game," Johnson said. "We know that we’re going to get their best game.

"We’re trying to treat it like the next game, but there’s so much commotion going on it makes it difficult. We’re proud to be in it, but that’s not our goal. We’re going out to win it."

Pirates aim for title

The Pickens Academy Pirates (10-2) will contend for a title Friday as they face Restoration Academy (12-1) in the AISA Class A game at 3:30 p.m.

"They have a lot of speed, and they do a lot of different things," Pickens Academy coach John Gartman said. "They’ll give you a lot of different looks, and they do it all well."

Pickens Academy won the Class AA championship in 1999 and was the runner-up in 2004. The Pirates started the playoffs this year with a 34-21 win over Lakeside and defeated Ashford Academy 46-33 last week.

"We’ve put a lot of hard work into it to get to this point," Gartman said. "It’s very nice to come this far. Hopefully, we can win Friday."

Gartman, whose 2011 team went 3-7, installed a run-oriented wing-T offense to take advantage of the talents of junior quarterback Josh Lewis, senior fullback Garrett Estes and senior running back Joel Pratt. Gartman said his team can throw it, and wingback Sam Beachler is a key receiver. The Pirates won their first eight games and were undefeated against Class A competition.

"We rely on execution, just doing what we do and doing it well," Gartman said. "Joel and Josh have a lot of speed. If they get a step on anybody, they can take it all the way and they’ve done that several times. Garrett is not quite as fast as they are. For his role in our offense, he almost always runs between the tackles. He’s very good at that. He’s the one who kind of moves the chains for us. They complement each other in the roles that they have for us."

Pickens Academy’s starters on the offensive line are tackles Jamison McCrary and Preston McGahey, guards Cody Scott and Chase Britt and center Hunter Booth. The tight ends are Phil Fikes and Reece McGlawn.

Estes, a middle linebacker, is the leading tackler for the defense.

"I just wanted to show leadership for this team and give it everything I had," Estes said. "Everybody around here is pretty nervous, but we’re ready to go. I just want to thank everybody on this team for all their hard work."

Pratt plays defense as a safety.

"Last year we were left with a sour stomach," Pratt said. "We realized this is our last year to play. We’ve got a big group of seniors. We wanted to show leadership. We were willing to get up early, go to every practice and give it our all.

"It’s been a lot of fun in this offense. I’m enjoying this. It’s the best year of my life. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It’s great to be a Pirate."

 

Reach Andrew Carroll at andrew.carroll@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.