UMS-Wright proves Tigers wrong

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 26, 2006

All good things must come to end.

Thus is the story of the Greenville High football team as the Tigers' Cinderella season came to end at the hands of the defending Class 4A champion UMS-Wright Bulldogs, 23-12, Friday night in the third round of the Class 5A playoffs.

The Bulldogs offense, led by tailback Terrell Edwards and wide receiver Brandon Gibson, pounded out 167 yards on the ground and threw for 132 yards to down the home team.

The usual run-happy Tigers were limited to just 69 yards on the ground by the Bulldog defense.

Greenville got off to a fast start after Marcus Long returned the kickoff 30 yards and junior quarterback Casey Weston completed three passes for 41 yards, but a few costly penalties and a sack on third down ended the drive and forced the Tigers to punt.

The Tigers and Bulldogs swapped possessions to end the first quarter and then after a successful fourth-down conversion run by Weston, senior running back Brandon Cheatham took a screen pass, broke three tackles and raced into the end zone for the Greenville score. After an unsportsmanlike penalty forced the Tigers to kick a 35-yard extra point attempt, the kick failed, making the score 6-0.

Both teams once again swapped possession in the second quarter and then on a fourth down punting situation from their own end zone, Weston's punt was blocked and the Bulldogs recovered for the safety, making the score 6-2.

The Tigers would not lead again.

On the ensuing kickoff, Weston kicked the ball out of bounds and then did it again, forcing Akeeva Owens to come in and kickoff from the Tigers' own 10-yard line.

The Bulldogs took possession at the Tigers' 40-yard line and drove down into the red zone before several penalties moved UMS-Wright up five yards and then back 10 yards.

On a fourth down play from the Tiger 13-yard line with 1:32 to go before the half, UMS-Wright quarterback Michael Scott delivered a strike to Edwards for the Bulldog score, making the score 9-6 after the successful point-after kick.

&#8220Offensively, we had a ton of opportunities but we could not execute,” Greenville head coach Bryant Vincent said. &#8220In the big games you have to execute and we definitely shot ourselves in the foot many times.”

To start the second half, UMS-Wright took the ball and drove deep into Tiger territory before senior Lynn Lewis intercepted Scott's pass and returned it 18 yards.

On the Tigers' ensuing possession, Greenville was held to three-and-out before Weston had his second punt of the night blocked, thus giving the ball back to the Bulldogs in Tiger territory.

With 6:18 to go in the third quarter, Scott hooked up with Gibson for the 11 yard touchdown pass, making the score 16-6 after the successful kick.

Greenville took the ball and drove 30 yards on two plays on the next possession, but a Weston pass sailed high and UMS-Wright defensive back Erling Riis picked it of to end the drive.

Scott once again went to Gibson for 35 yards to set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Edwards on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the Bulldogs up 23-6 after the successful extra point kick.

The Tigers made several attempts in the fourth quarter to retain possession offensively by going for it on fourth down and faking punts, but the Bulldog defense would not budge.

On the Tigers' final possession of the game, Weston hooked up with freshman Kamau Simmons from 18 yards out with four seconds remaining to pull the game to 23-12.

&#8220This is not the ending we wanted, but you have to understand something; what you did this year is special and you guys have brought football back to this town,” Bryant told his team following the game. &#8220You got this program back on track and don't you ever forget it.”

Sophomore Alex Phifer, who accounted for eight touchdowns before being injured earlier in the season, spoke to the seniors after the game.

&#8220We got here because of you (seniors) and you (seniors) kept us together and kept us working out in the weight room to prepare us to be here,” Phifer said. &#8220Because of you, we're coming back for (a championship ring) next year.”

Offensively for the Tigers, Weston was 16-of-28 for 182 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Cheatham rushed 16 times for 56 yards and caught three passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. Senior receiver Lewis also had three catches for 56 yards while Traves Yelder had four catches for 35 yards.

Defensively for the Tigers, Owens was the leading tackler with 10 while sophomore Jamontay Pilson finished the night with seven tackles and Michael Johnson had eight tackles and one pass deflection. Lewis had five tackles, three pass deflections and an interception and Marcus Mickles had four tackles and a pass deflection.

Although the Tigers' season was cut short Friday night, Greenville without a doubt had the biggest turnaround in Alabama High School football.

After consecutive 1-9 seasons, Vincent's Tigers finished 10-3 and made the third round of the playoffs for the first time since the 1994 championship season.

&#8220This just shows the heart and character of this senior class,” Vincent said.

With the Tigers losing only four starters on offense and four on defense, the future of Greenville football looks extremely bright.

&#8220This program is definitely headed in the right direction,” Vincent said.