Tuscaloosa Academy Secures Region Championship With Homecoming Victory
The Tuscaloosa Academy Knights (4-4, 4-0) defeated the Morgan Academy Senators (4-4, 2-2) on homecoming 17-7 to win the AISA 3A Region 2. The Knights defense held strong throughout the evening only allowing one touchdown and holding the Senators to just 1-for-6 on fourth down.
Tuscaloosa Academy opened the game strong with junior Neal Shaw intercepting quarterback Andrew Thomas on the first play of the game. The Knights the manufactured an 11-play 52 yard drive that set up Patton Turnipseed for a 33-yard field goal to open start the scoring.
The home team allowed Morgan Academy to reach the redzone on the next drive but the Senators were stopped on fourth down to give control back over to Tuscaloosa Academy with a chance to extend its lead.
Quick gains on the ground from quarterback David McNeil and running back Tyler McNeal set the Knights up at midfield facing a third down. McNeil looked right and found senior Carson Claytor in one-on-one coverage emerging from his break in the passing route. Claytor caught the pass and raced to the endzone for a 47-yard touchdown.
The Senators answered the call on the following drive manufacturing a 10-play 69-yard drive capitalizing on a facemask penalty and strong running by Chase Brown and John Allen Ingram.
The play began to stall out as defense and field position became the name of the game.
The Knights had an opportunity to extend its lead before the end of the half after the Senators mishandled a snap attempting a punt. Tuscaloosa Academy failed to capitalize after McNeil was picked off in the endzone by T.B. Clements.
McNeil completed 11-of-18 passes for 129 yards with one touchdown and one interception, additionally he rushed for 44 yards to help the Knights control field position.
"It was kind of an ugly win but hey, we'll take it. The turnover before half, the interception, really took the wind out of us but you know, David was just trying to make a play and their guy made a play," said Tuscaloosa Academy head coach Josh Wright. "We're happy with the homecoming win against a good opponent. It was kind of a grind out game."
Field position was the name of the game as the only other score of the game came on the opening kickoff of the second half. Senior Jack Standeffer returned the opening kick of the second half 80-yards for a Tuscaloosa Academy touchdown to put the Knights up by 10 points for good.
"He's an explosive player. That kickoff return, look how big that was," said Wright. "Anytime he gets the ball in space, he's a threat to score. I've got to do a better job of getting him the ball but he's a great kid and a great competitor."
Tuscaloosa Academy stopped the Senators twice on fourth down and forced two punts in the second half to pitch a second half shutout.
Offensively for the Knights, McNeal carried the ball 11 times for 24 yards. Standeffer caught eight passes for 55 yards and carried the ball twice for 10 yards. Wilson King caught two passes for 28 yards. Preston Lancaster completed 1-of-3 passes for seven yards.
Cayden Richardson and Landon Stell each recorded a sack to the Tuscaloosa Academy defense.
Offensively for the Senators, Ingram tallied 13 carries for 20 yards and the touchdown he caught one pass for 5 yards, Brown carried it eight times for 38 yards. Allen Lightfoot took two carries for eight yards and caught five passes for 34 yards. Cink Minter caught five passes for 85 yards. Andrew Thomas completed 16-of-25 passes for 149 yards with an interception while rushing for 30 yards.
Tuscaloosa Academy will travel to Monroe Academy (3-5, 2-2) next week and Morgan Academy will play at Fort Dale Academy (2-6, 0-4).