Alexander traveled to Decatur on Friday to take on Stephenson High School in the first round of the 5A State Tournament at Pantherville Stadium. The Jaguars jumped out to a big lead on AHS behind a running game that rushed for over 500 yards, and then fended off a late Cougar rally. Alexander’s season came to a close with a 41-27 loss.
“We did not show who we were in the first half and you can’t spot a team like that,” said AHS head coach Matt Combs. “They are a good football team but we beat ourselves.”
In the opening drive, Alexander was hurt by a holding penalty and forced to punt. Stephenson escaped the same play with a no call on a face-mask to running back Mikell Lands-Davis. The Cougars ended Stephenson’s possession, after being forced to punt, when Jordan Pounds recovered a fumble.
AHS could do nothing on their second drive as Baylor Whitfield’s passes sailed high in the frigid weather.
Stephenson would find the end zone first after forcing their second punt. Ivonte Patterson rushed for a big gain to spot the ball at the AHS 30 yard line. Patterson received the next handoff from quarterback Dewann Ford and took the ball to the endzone for six points. Zaire Joyeau connected on the point after for a 7-0 Jaguar lead.
In their third possession, Alexander continued to struggle on offense in both the passing and rushing game. Again were forced to kick the ball away. Stephenson scored on the ensuing drive when Ford hit Dexter Neal on a 40 yard pass. Neal caught the short pass, took the ball up the far side while breaking several tackles, and then dove for the goalline for the score. The kick was good, putting the Jags up 14-0.
Late in the fourth quarter it looked as if Stephenson would score again when Patterson took the ball to the one-yard line on a 33 yard run. On the next play, a goalline stand produced a fumble and Pounds jumped on the ball for AHS.
The Cougars methodically took the ball downfield as the second quarter kicked off. Whitfield began to find the mark with is receivers, connecting on two first down passes, and the running game found a few holes, moving the ball to the Jaguar 20.
After taking the ball to the 10, Lands-Davis received a a handoff and found a big hole in the middle of the field. However, the ball was stripped from the running back right before crossing the goalline. Stephenson’s Khalil Ladler recovered at the one yard line.
The Jags moved the ball to midfield behind running back Cortese Logan. After working the ball to the 29, Patterson took the handoff and rushed, wide open, to the right corner of the endzone. The kick put Stephenson up, 21-0.
As the clock ticked down in the second quarter, AHS cross midfield on a 23 yard pass from Whitfield to Isaac Zico. Whitfield then hit Leon Agee for 24 yards, putting the Cougars at the seven yard line. One passing and two running plays produced only five yards, putting Alexander in a 4th-and-goal situation at the two yard line. The Cougars elected to go for it. Whitfield took the snap and had a wide open receiving on a slant in the endzone, but the ball sailed high and out of reach, forcing a turnover on downs.
In the third quarter, Stephenson received the kickoff and scored three minutes later when Ford hit Neal on a 48 yard bomb. Neal threw down his defender and trotted into the endzone. The kick was no good but the Jags held a 27 point advantage.
Stephenson began to penetrate the Cougar offensive line, knocking down a few AHS passes. However, a little trickery paid off for the Cougars on fourth down when Lands-Davis completed a first down pass to Zico. A few plays later Whitfield found an open Agee in in the back of the endzone for a touchdown. Andrew Chandler connected on the point after and the score stood 27-7 Stephenson with six minutes to play in the third quarter.
Alexander continued to struggle to defend the run as the Jaguars moved the ball quickly downfield late in the third quarter. Stephenson picked up big runs from Patterson, White and Ladler before Isaiah Zuber crossed the goalline on a 10 yard pass. The kick put the Jags up, 34-7.
Agee picked up his second TD of the night on a 12 yard pass from Whitfield as the fourth quarter began. The extra point was good. The Cougars trailed by 20.
A fumble by a Stephenson kick returner gave the ball back to the Cougars right away. AHS took advantage of their good fortune and two plays later found the endzone as Whitfield and Agee hooked up once again. The Jaguar lead was now down to 14.
With luck on their side, AHS went for an on-side kick. Jacque Muhammed recovered for the Cougars.Whitfield then hit Zico on a 30 yard pass, and Alexander moved into the redzone. Justin Hall caught the next pass, a 15-yarder, and dove for the score. With the kick, AHS now trailed 34-27.
With their lead cut to seven, Stephenson got the ball back and took over most of the time on the clock in the fourth quarter, punching the ball into the endzone on a three yard run by Patterson. The score and ensuing extra point put the Jags up, 41-27, sealing the victory.
Stephenson rushed for 515 yards and four touchdowns in the win. They passed the ball only four time and completed two, both going for TDs.
Whitfield had a solid game, completing 22-of-40 for 281 yards and four scores. Zico had seven catches for 111 yards. Agee had four catches for 61 yards and three touchdowns. Hall finished with six catches for 101 yards and a score. Lands-Davis carried the ball 16 times for 100 yards.
The Cougars wrap up the 2014 season with an 8-3 record.
“There were not a lot of times this year where we got off the bus and won the ‘off the bus’ test,” Combs said. “But eyeballs don’t show you everything about a program and what this team does, and they way they believe in each other and will always fight for each other. That is who we are.”
“I will remember the way these kids fought and they were a band of brothers,” Combs added.