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Red Level burns G.W. Long

It will be the end of an era next Friday night when the Red Level Tigers face the Straughn Tigers for the final time in regular season play. But for this night, it was all about living in the moment and playing for a No. 2-seeding as well as the right to host

a first-round playoff game.

That's exactly what happened when the Red Level Tigers defeated the G.W. Long Rebels from Skipperville 23-14 at Crystal Springs Park.

The game started out on a rough note for both teams as the Rebels fumbled the ball on the opening drive of the game, with the Tigers' Kyle Adams recovering on the Rebels' 33-yard line. It wasn't meant to be for the Tigers as Jake Paramore intercepted the ball for the Rebels.

The Rebels took control of the situation as Chris Ivey threw up a lob to Fred Grubbs from the Red Level 43-yard line, with Grubbs finding the end zone.

The Rebels missed the two-point conversion, giving them a 6-0 lead.

The rest of the first quarter was a tug-of-war as the Rebels and Tigers both exchanged the ball numerous times.

There was a glimmer of hope for the Tigers when the Rebels fumbled the ball on their own 21-yard line, but the Tigers were unable to capitalize. The quarter ended with the Rebels holding on to a 6-0 lead.

The Tigers got things going in the second quarter as Larry Hudson found his way into the end zone, tying the game at 6-6. The Tigers opted for a two-point play, with Hudson finding the end zone again. However, the referees thought otherwise, tossing a yellow handkerchief

for an illegal shift.

The Tigers didn't give up, opting to go for two again. This time, Princeton Ryce found the end zone, giving Red Level an 8-6 lead at the half.

Long tried to mount a comeback in the waning seconds of the half, but missed on a last-minute field goal attempt, giving the Tigers an 8-6 lead.

The Tigers got off to a bumpy start in the second half, when they fumbled on the opening drive. Trapper Bell recoveredfor the Rebels.

The Rebels kept control of the ball, with Judson Campbell finding the end zone with 8:32 seconds left in the third quarter. Grubbs ran the ball in for a two-point conversion, giving the Rebels a 14-8 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, the ball rolled into the hands of Evan Kervin.

The Tigers mounted a strong effort, but were forced to punt.

The Tigers came roaring back on their next possession as Russell Rigdon found the end zone, and Hudson split the uprights giving the Tigers a 15-14 lead.

From there, the Tigers never looked back.

The Rebels mounted several strong efforts to regain control of the game, and came close to scoring several times. Each time the Tigers' defense held tough, forcing the Rebels to give the ball back.

Hoping to keep the ball in their control, the Tigers played fiercely, with Hudson finding the end zone one last time on a five-minute drive from scrimmage to start the fourth quarter. Ryce found the end zone a second time for a two-point conversion, solidifying the Tigers victory 23-14.

With that victory, the Tigers will host a yet-to-be determined opponent in the first-round of the state playoffs.

At the end of the game, Red Level Head Coach Tim Grimes was glad to walk away with a win, but recognized several mistakes made by his team.

"We're 8-1, and the No. 2 seed," he said. "That means we'll host the first round. We don't know who that will be, but it will be here, and the field will be ready.

"We played hard, but we're still hurting from last week (a loss to the Slocomb Red Tops)," he continued. "We fumbled on the first play, and we fumbled on the first play of the second half. We've got some things to work on."

Not to take anything away from the Rebels, Grimes recognized the fierceness of the game.

"They're a good team," he said. "They played hard and gave us a good fight."

Grimes also recognized the importance of getting past the mistakes made Friday night, and looking ahead to the cross-river rivalry.

"I hope the kids realize how important it is to work to fix our mistakes," he said. "Straughn's a tough team. It's going to be a good game."