Bulldogs are regional champs
ASHFORD – Andalusia overcame a 14-point first quarter deficit by outscoring the Ashford Yellow Jackets 21-6 to clinch the Class 4A, Region 2 championship Friday night at W.H. Brown Field.
The Bulldogs scored the game-winning, go-ahead touchdown with 3:49 left in the fourth quarter on a 25-yard pass from Deion Akins to all-purpose player Derrick King to seal the 21-20 win over Ashford.
Before King’s touchdown reception, the Bulldogs were facing a 4-and-11 play, and the punt team wasn’t even needed because Akins connected with King for 18 yards and the first down.
An elated AHS coach Brian Seymore said that play is exactly what it was, get King in the open for the pass.
“We tried to read the safety and bring Derrick in motion,” Seymore said. “I think the safety kind of shifted towards C.P. (Rogers), and Derrick sat back behind them and Deion threw it to him.
“We fought through that adversity and made some big plays and they stayed focused,” he said. “I felt like we were the better team, and our kids found a way to pull it out.”
In the end though, the Bulldogs’ defense held the game, and essentially won it with their spectacular pass coverage.
Ashford’s James Gardner dropped back for a pass on first down, and Andalusia’s Ralph Sims jumped up in the air and pulled the ball down one-handed for the pick with 2:48 left in the contest.
“I had a blitz on them and I read it right,” Sims said. “I saw him drop back and I dropped back with him and I caught the pass.”
“We put it on the defense at the end right there, and they did a tremendous job,” Seymore said.
Andalusia senior linebacker Johnnie Jones helped the defense Friday night with seven tackles.
On Andalusia’s next offensive possession, excellent clock control, and a few delay-of-game penalties later, the Bulldogs were forced to punt.
A botched punt by Rogers gave Ashford the ball back on its own 46, but Gardner threw his second interception into the waiting arms of Andalusia’s Lakelyus “Fat Head” Adams with 57 seconds left in the game.
The Bulldogs got in the victory formation, and Akins kneed the ball twice to run the clock out.
“We’re truly blessed,” Seymore said. “ You don’t know how proud I am to be standing here talking to you about it right now. To be associated with these kids and this school – this is where I want to be. I love it.
“We’ve come a long way in three years,” he said. “The credit goes to our kids and the coaches with the way they have worked.”
The last time Andalusia claimed the region title was in 2007.
Next week, Andalusia (7-1, 6-0) will host Headland in its final region contest of the regular season.
The Bulldogs were facing certain adversity early in the first quarter against the Yellow Jackets (7-1, 5-1). The defense held Ashford to a three-and-out to force Ashford to punt. Then, on a bad snap, Ashford’s Justin Raybon rushed 14 yards for the first down.
From there, Ashford’s Malvin Anderson scampered in for a touchdown from 38 yards out with 8:37 left in the first quarter.
Andalusia couldn’t get anything going on its first offensive possession of the night. The Bulldogs held the Yellow Jackets to a three-and-out on defense, but then gave up an interception to Ashford from their own 44 yard line.
With 3:16 left in the first quarter, Gardner connected with Lenoris Wesley on a 6-yard pass for a touchdown to help his team take a 14-0 lead over Andalusia.
At the beginning of the second quarter, Andalusia completed an eight-play, 27 yard drive when King ran in the ball for his first rushing touchdown of the night with 11:52 in the first. King finished the night rushing for 171 yards on 29 carries and scored two touchdowns. He also had one reception for a touchdown. Kicker Courey Hopkins completed the extra point, and the Bulldogs cut Ashford’s lead by seven. For the night, Hopkins was a perfect 3-of-3.
Ashford quickly answered 25 seconds later when Anderson ran the ball 66 yards for the score to help his team take a 20-7 lead.
On Andalusia’s next offensive possession, King helped drive the team down the field to the Ashford one-yard line, where he took it in for his second touchdown rush. The PAT was good, and the Yellow Jackets held a 20-14 lead going into halftime.
Seymore said at halftime he told his kids that they were still in the game.
“We knew that Ashford was going to be a tough opponent,” he said. “Coming off hard games against Hillcrest-Evergreen and Straughn, it was all about getting back up and being able to execute in two road games in a row like this.
“Our kids have fought through adversity all year,” he said. “Our kids found a way. I’m so proud of these guys, and the coaches. I’m so proud of those guys. We’ve come a long way in three years, and the credit goes to our kids and the coaches with the way they have worked.”
Sims finished the night with 33 yards on three carries. Akins contributed with 56 yards on 14 carries. Andalusia’s Jacard Townsend rushed the ball 21 yards on four carries.
In passing, Akins was 3-of-8 with one touchdown and one interception.