Tuscaloosa Academy Knights Slay Locust Fork Hornets
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Tuscaloosa Academy hosted Locust Fork in a first round playoff matchup. The Knights held off a late comeback attempt from the Hornets and finished the game with a final score of 42-28.
Locust Fork opened the game with ball after losing the coin toss and looked to take advantage of the opportunity to be first to put points on the board. The Hornets methodically drove the ball down the field behind the legs of sophomore quarterback Dylan Embry before Embry completed his first pass of the game to Miles Watts who darted into the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown.
The Knights looked to answer the call and began their drive on their own 42-yard line after a 25-yard return from Luke Kilgore. The Knights pushed the ball into Hornet territory on a few runs from Sherabiah Jones.
On second down from the Locust Fork 30-yard line TA quarterback Preston Lancaster dropped back and threw a pass to his right, but Hornet defensive end Jalon Boatright jumped to swat the ball down and secured it. Boatright, realizing he had the ball, immediately took off and out ran the rest of the Knights on his way to a 70-yard pick-six to give Locust Fork a two score lead in the first quarter.
Knight head coach Josh Wright went back to his go-to player and began feeding the ball to Jones and the Knights marched down the the Hornet one-yard line. On third and goal Jones punched the ball in to put the Knights on the board late in the first quarter.
The Hornets got the ball back deep in their own territory after a penalty on first down. Embry answered his teams call and delivered a pass to Landon Keith to get them out to the 30-yard line to end the first quarter.
The Hornets dialed up a big play to start the second quarter and Embry aired it out deep to Boatright who snagged the ball near the sideline and broke two tackles en route to a 69-yard touchdown to give the Hornets another two-score lead but the point after was blocked.
The Knights continued with its game plan and drove the ball down the field to the Locust Fork 26-yard line where Wright was forced to make a decision on fourth-and-one. The Knights handed the ball back to Jones and he punched his way through the line to pick up the first down. After a pass from Lancaster to Kilgore to put them on the 10, Jones carried the ball the final length of the drive to close the gap.
Both teams stalled on their next drives and were each forced to punt for the first time during the game and Locust Fork received the ball back with a few minutes left in the half. However, the Hornets were stopped after and forced to punt the ball back to TA with under two minutes left on the clock in the first half.
Lancaster began his version of the two-minute drill with a deep shot to Kilgore over the middle for a 36 yard pickup down to the Locust Fork 32-yard line. After two runs from Jones to move them to the 16, Lancaster found James Standard for the touchdown with 32 seconds left in the half. The Knights completed the early comeback and took the lead for the first time during the game after the kick from Patton Turnipseed.
Locust Fork got the ball back and tried to put points on the board with the little time left on the clock but a sack by Tristan Kegg closed out the first half.
TA opened up the second half with the ball and Lancaster did not hesitate to extend his team's lead. On second down, he found wide receiver Mills Powell for a 44-yard strike to set up the Knights in the red zone. On the following play, Jones called his number for the third time on the night and took the ball in for a 18-yard touchdown.
Jones finished the outing with 112 yards on the ground to go along with his three touchdowns.
Locust Fork stalled out on their following drive and gave Tuscaloosa Academy the ball back after punting.
Lancaster found Kilgore on a 14-yard pass to the right boundary on second down and a scrambled for another 10 on the following play to set up the Knights near midfield. Running back Maliciah McKinney took the ball up the middle on the following play and burst through with nothing but green grass in front of him.
Mckinney made it down to the one-yard line before being dragged down to set up the Knights in prime position to score again. After a first down Lancaster run failed to gain, he flashed the arm and completed a pass to senior wide receiver Andrew David to flip the script and put the Hornets down two scores.
The following drive Locust Fork could only move the ball three yard before attempting to air it out on third down. Embry dropped back to pass, and after avoiding the initial pressure, he was sacked from his blind side by Knight defensive tackle Jackson Cooper to force another punt.
TA received the ball back and looked to put the game out of reach with a deep shot over the top from Lancaster that just missed his targets hands. Jones was subsequently stopped on second down for no gain to put the Knights in a passing situation.
Lancaster fired over a pass to Powell that tipped off of his hands, but Locust Fork defensive back Matthew Mitchell was waiting for it and snagged the interception near his knees and broke down the sideline to give all of the momentum to the Hornets' sideline. On the following two-point conversion, Embry carried the ball in around the right edge and extended the ball just across the line to bring the deficit to seven.
The Hornets came back out on defense and after a tackle for loss on second down forced Lancaster to drop back again. Hornet linebacker Noah Hove chased Lancaster out of the pocket and sacked him to give the Hornets the ball back.
The Hornets began their potential game tying drive at their own 17-yard line. Embry and Hornet running back Johnathon Burgett traded off runs to get the ball to their 44-yard line. On third and eight, Hornet head coach Billy Adams dialed up a double pass and Burgett completed it to Charlie Armstrong who snuck his way to the other side of the field.
After the 24-yard gain, the Tuscaloosa Academy defense bowed up shut down two pass attempts from Embry to give its offense the ball back with just under seven minutes left in the game.
Wright called on his quarterback one last time to seal the game and he delivered. On second down, Lancaster completed a pass to Kilgore who broke a tackle and continued up the sideline for a 30-yard gain. The next play Lancaster dropped a dime down the middle of the field to Powell as he crossed the goal line for a touchdown to give the Knights a 42-28 lead.
When asked about his team's performance, Wright said," Preston played a heck of a ball game and those two interception returns were disheartening but our kids were resilient and kept fighting so I'm super proud of them."
Lancaster finished the game with 204 yards through the air and three passing touchdowns along with 38 yards on the ground.
The following Hornets' drive Embry began to take his team down the field to try to pull off the comeback completing passes of 12 and 20 yards to reach midfield. After a penalty moved the Hornets firmly into TA territory, Embry was sacked on third and fourth down to close out the game and give the Knights the victory.
When asked about Embry, Adams said, "he's still learning and he's got two more years for us there and I'm looking forward to the future with him back there."
The sophomore quarterback finished with 121 passing yards and one touchdown while also adding another 97 yards on offense with his legs.
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