With the history books rewritten, the Alexander football team will try to put the past behind them this week as they travel down to Jesup, Ga. to take on Wayne County High School in a AAAA Elite-8 match-up.
“Yes, we made history last week but we feel like we are writing a story,” said AHS coach Mat Combs. “That story still has a couple of chapters remaining.”
The Elite-8 is a new chapter to the Cougars. The school has never reached the third round of state. Their opponent has been but not in a long time. The Yellow Jackets last reached the Elite-8 in 1993.
The road to the third round game was very different for both schools.
Wayne County reached the state playoffs with an 8-2 record. They lost in the regular season to only one team, twice. They fell Burke County, once at midseason by only four points, and the second time in the region championship game, which went into overtime with the Yellow Jackets falling, 49-43.
During the region championship match, the team was led by a running game that does not have an individual standout. Instead, Wayne County uses up to nine backs and the group totaled 379 yards of offense in the loss.
The Yellow Jackets opened the 2013 playoffs with another impressive offensive performance, but this time from the passing game. Quarterback Malique Jackson put on a clinic against Monroe County with his top receiver, Krenwick Sanders. The pair hooked up six times for 279 yards and six touchdowns, five of which came in the first half. The receiving yards and touchdowns by a receiver were both school records.
“[Their receiver] runs great routes and has good ball skill,” Combs said. “He ikea to get into open spaces.”
Jackson finished the game with 12 competitions for 371 yards, which was also a school record.
“He is an elusive quarterback,” Combs said. “He runs the show and has a decent arm to keep you honest. They run their offense around their QB like we run ours around our running back.”
Advancing to the second round, Wayne County was faced with an entirely different task than the previous two games. This time they squared off with Veterans High School in a defensive slugfest. Both teams struggled to score points in the first half. The Yellow Jackets put up 20 in the third quarter and held on for a three point win.
Sanders again stepped up in a playoff game, but this time on special teams. The return man took a kickoff 94 yards for what would be the winning touchdown. Quin Stovell stood out on the defensive end. The linebacker had three interceptions.
“He is a ball hawker,” Combs said of Stovell. “He plays well in man-to-man and covers well. He is aggressive.”
Alexander was a little Jekyll and Hyde during their regular season, going 6-4. The Cougars had impressive wins over LaGrange and Carver-Atlanta, and a near victory over the No. 1 team in the state, Sandy Creek. However, they also suffered devastating losses to Carrollton and Troup County.
Since the loss to the Trojans, AHS has won four straight games including a 44-0 blowout over Fayette County to claim the fourth seed for the playoffs.
Alexander opened the 2013 playoffs with a defensive battle against Dalton on the road. The Cougar “D” put up its best performance of the season and running back Mikell Lands-Davis pounded out 187 yards on 40 carries, scoring once. Kicker Matt Cooke was the hero of the game, nailing a 36-yarder with 10:20 to play in the fourth quarter to put his team up 10-7. He then connected on a last second 27-yard field goal for the win.
In a history making second round playoff game, Land-Davis put the AHS team on his back and carried the Cougars to victory. Lands-Davis rushed for 306 yards and five touchdowns. The running back broke loose for three scoring runs of 43-yards or more. Jaquan Grier stood out on defense with two interceptions. Quarterback Baylor Whitfield managed the game from the line of scrimmage, as he has done successfully in each game of the winning streak.
Statistically both teams have been nearly identical this year. AHS is averaging 31.5 points per game while allowing 23.8. The Yellow Jackets are averaging 35.6 points on offense and allowing 21.2 on defense.
“Just like I have said all season long, we will approach this game one play at a time,” Combs said. “We want to raise the bar and keep making history.”