|For Edgewood, it's another trip to the final game|
|Written by News Desk|
|Thursday, 21 November 2013 13:11|
Edgewood receiver Daniel Green (2) shakes loose from a Wilcox defender and fights his way into the end zone for a touchdown.
Photo: Anita Barnes
By ART PARKER
Some said it was the real state Championship game. Last week the undefeated Edgewood Academy Wildcats hosted Wilcox Academy in the rain soaked semi-final contest of the AISA Class AA playoffs and from most every angle it looked like the best two teams in the bracket were squaring off. It was a tough game for the home team but Edgewood took the victory 35-20. The Wildcats were quick to point out the high quality team they faced. "They are the best team we faced. They are the biggest team we faced and they are the toughest," Edgewood linebacker Jesse Benton said. Edgewood was greatly outsized by Wilcox.
Edgewood played well but they were constantly on their toes. The Wildcats had to play hard the entire game because they just couldn't run Wilcox out of town like they have most everyone else. And Edgewood had to call upon its character as it did early in the season when they were forced to come from behind in several of its games.
Edgewood fumbled the Wilcox punt, the first impact of the game by the bad weather, after holding the visitors in the first series. A couple of plays later Wilcox scored with its excellent running game. The Wildcats answered quickly by marching 58 yards in 8 plays. Quarterback Taylor Hawthorne led the offense down the field but the scoring play was a pass from Josh Crawford to Hawthorne. Another wet ball error on the snap for the extra point left the Wildcats behind 7-6.
Blowing other teams out often with big pass plays is the norm for the Wildcats, but the first two drives were totally opposite, consuming time and many plays. Hawthorne executed short passes on Edgewood's next drive of 13 plays, the highest number of plays in an Edgewood drive all season. Hawthorne scored again as he scrambled to the sidelines and hit the end zone from 18 yards away. Crawford ran for the 2-point conversion and the Wildcats owned the lead at 14-7 midway in the second quarter. "They had good deep coverage and we were prepared to throw short on them because of that. We found the holes in their defense and it was with the short stuff," Hawthorne explained afterwards.
Photo: Wildcats quarterback Taylor Hawthorne (7) will be the key to Edgewood’s state championship hopes if he can avoid problems with his previously injured knee. As a passer and receiver he makes theWildcats offense almost impossible to stop. Above: Hawthorne runs for a first down in the fourth quarter against Wilcox Academy in Friday night’s game.
Photo: Anita Barnes
But Wilcox had plenty of fight left. A big 54 yard run put Wilcox in position for a score and the game was tied at 14-14. Edgewood came back and this time scored quickly using only 4 plays and consuming 60 yards. Daniel Green made up for his fumbled punt catching a Hawthorne pass and then fighting his way into the Wilcox end zone. With just 2:12 remaining in the half Edgewood owned the lead for good at 21-14.
About a minute later Edgewood became the beneficiary of the biggest play of the game. Wilcox fumbled the wet pigskin at its 46 yard line. Heath Young recovered for the Wildcats and Edgewood's coach Bobby Carr sent Hawthorne on the field with guns loaded knowing the importance of the opportunity. Hawthorne did his magic and had the Wildcats on the Wilcox 1 yard line in just two plays. Crawford walked into the end zone and Edgewood had a 14 point lead at halftime.
The late second quarter events took some wind from the sails of Wilcox and placed them in a hole. The running game could not make much headway against the Wildcats defense in the second half, especially when Edgewood players came up with big defensive plays such as; Jake Sisson, Tyler Anderson, Austin Barnett, and the always present Keith Johnson.
Midway in fourth quarter Hawthorne made the big play again. The tall signal caller raced down the sidelines for a 51 yard run and Edgewood was in business at the Wilcox 25 yard line. Three plays later Crawford bulled his way into the end zone from 15 yards and Edgewood took an insurmountable lead at 35-14. Wilcox scored with 57 seconds to go and missed the extra point.
Hawthorne missed almost half the season with a knee injury and was limping toward the end of the game. He said his knee was sore but was ready to play for another title. "Wilcox is the best we played. No doubt, about it... they are the most physical. But this is past us and we got to get ready for the biggest game of the year," Hawthorne said. "Our coaches always do a good job preparing us and we got serious preparation to do."
Hawthorne's sore knee is not the only concern in the Edgewood health department. The Wildcats have been the walking wounded most of the year and the nagging injuries have returned. Crawford, who has experienced feet problems all season has a pulled hamstring. Johnson, the top enforcer on the Edgewood defense, must also deal with an injury.
Edgewood will face Clarke Prep for the state title. Clarke is 8-4 and won its last 4 games after suffering many injuries for the better part of the season. Clarke defeated Patrician Academy 37-30 in the other semi-final (as a side note, Edgewood defeated Wilcox 35-20, Wilcox defeated Clarke 14-0).
Edgewood is 13-0 and is now tied for the longest winning streak in AISA history at 44 games. A victory in the State Championship game not only earns a crown for the Wildcats but breaks an impressive record. The last game Edgewood lost was in October 2010, when the Wildcats were defeated by Glenwood Academy 13-12. Edgewood still went on to win a state championship that year and in 2011 and 2012.
"Obviously we have a lot on the line this Friday...a record and a state championship," Carr said. "Some of our players have been there before and our coaches have been there. We just need to prepare like its the last game ever played."
Edgewood and Clarke will play this Friday, November 22, at Troy University during the AISA Super Six Championship day. The two teams play the second game of the day at 3:30pm.
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