Tigers down Panthers, face Bears
Luverne sophomore Fred Hawkins will sleep well this weekend.
Georgiana football players, on the other hand, may have nightmares of the 5-foot-11, 165 pound tailback.
Hawkins single handedly sent the Panthers (5-6) packing as he scored on two punt returns and rushed for a third touchdown in the eighth-ranked Tigers' 29-6 win in the first round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association's Class 2A state playoffs.
"Our special team play, those two punt returns hurt us," GHS Head Coach Keith York said. "We just couldn't get in sync offensively."
Although his team came away the victor, Luverne Head Coach Mike DuBose wasn't satisfied with his team's effort.
"I thought we made enough mistakes to lose two or three football games," DuBose said. "I wasn't pleased with the way we played. I'm pleased with the fact that we won the ballgame because that's your No. 1 goal and we get to go to round two and we're happy about that. I thought Georgiana did a nice job and had a good plan, especially defensively. They caused some problems for us."
York said he believed the difference in the game was early turnovers.
"We had to battle back all night and do some things that took us out of our offensive rhythm," he said.
The Tigers (9-2) jumped out to an early lead after Georgiana junior running back Zane McMeans fumbled on the first play of the game. Luverne senior Josh Tompkins pounced on the pigskin and five plays later, senior place kicker Daniel Brown booted a 27-yard field goal to put the home team on top, 3-0.
The Panthers were forced to punt on their ensuing drive giving the Tigers another scoring opportunity with ideal field position.
On the third play of the drive, Luverne junior quarterback Ryan Brown connected with senior receiver Pat Parks on a 59-yard touchdown pass.
Daniel Brown's point after kick was wide right, but the Tigers had built a 9-0 lead with 4:53 remaining in the opening quarter.
Georgiana went three and out on its next series and once again was forced to punt.
Hawkins fielded the punt at Luverne's 44-yard-line and bobbed and weaved his way down the home sideline 56 yards for the score.
The Tigers' two-point conversion attempt failed, but they had built a 15-0 lead over the visiting Panthers.
The two rivals exchanged punts back-and-forth on the next four series. The Panthers got their only score of the game with 4.3 seconds remaining in the half, when senior receiver Tyrell Rudolph hauled in junior quarterback Josh Maye's last-minute, desperation pass in the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown.
Luverne junior D.J. McCreary blocked senior place kicker David Campbell's point after kick to keep the score 15-6 at the half.
Luverne added to its lead early in the third quarter when Hawkins returned another punt for a touchdown. This time the playmaker outran Georgiana's special teams unit 47-yards into the end zone.
Daniel Brown's PAT padded the home team's lead, 22-6.
Georgiana engineered a 14-play, 38-yard drive and threatened to score late in the third quarter, but a series of penalties and huge stops by Luverne's tenacious defense ended the scoring threat.
Sophomore Shane Boyd stopped the Tigers early in their first series of the fourth quarter after picking off Ryan Brown's pass, which was batted at the line of scrimmage by the Panthers' defensive line.
A few series later, Luverne repaid the favor when Parks pounced on a Georgiana miscue.
The Tigers added their final score of the night with just over five minutes remaining in the game when Hawkins danced his way into the end zone from nine yards out.
Daniel Brown's point after kick split the uprights, as Luverne went on to win, 29-6.
The Tigers' defense held McMeans, who has rushed for over 2,000 yards this season, to a mere 87 yards including only 13 yards in the second half.
Ryan Brown led Luverne's offense as he completed eight of 12 passes for 85 yards and threw a touchdown and was picked off once.
Luverne's junior tailback Jesse Dixon finished the night with 60 yards on 10 carries and Hawkins toted the ball six times for 39 yards.
Luverne advances to the second round of the playoffs next Friday night as they take on Cottonwood, which defeated Billingsly Friday night.
Kickoff for that game is set for 7 p.m.