Former TA Coach, Quarterback Return to Earn Emotional Win
Mario White stood on the sideline of Tuscaloosa Academy’s football field on Friday night as the adversary, the opponent, the head coach of the visiting Pike Liberal Arts School in Troy.
But after time expired and his Patriots secured a 34-7 win, he walked out to midfield – standing on the gold “TA” letters that mean so much to him – and was greeted by old friends and his former players.
“I didn’t think it would be that emotional,” White said. “But when we pulled in town and we pulled up to McFarland Boulevard, I kinda got a knot in my throat. My family was raised here. My kids were raised here. I went to church just right down the street.”
White, who attended TA beginning in 1995, later went on to coach the JV team and was an assistant coach for the varsity team until February, when he received an offer to become the athletic director and head coach at Pike.
He spent nearly seven years coaching at his alma mater before moving on. He was also an assistant strength and conditioning coach on coach Nick Saban's staff at The University of Alabama.
“At first I didn’t want to leave here because my son actually played here [at TA],” White said. “My wife was the cheerleading coach here. My son was wearing my old high school number on the field that I played at, so it was hard to leave.”
His son, Mayes White, was Pike’s starting quarterback on Friday night after suiting up for the Knights for the last three years. He admittedly struggled at the start due to the nerves of playing against his former teammates, but he finished with 165 yards and a touchdown through the air and added another 47 yards and a score on the ground.
“It was really different and weird,” Mayes said. “… God gave me the opportunity to come back here. They’re still all my friends and we had a good game. It was pretty fun.”
It was a 61-yard touchdown pass from Mayes White to Jay Taylor in the second quarter that swung the momentum from TA to Pike.
The Knights had scored early in the second on a 65-yard run by junior Jack Standeffer after his knee never hit the ground and he rolled over the Pike defender attempting to tackle him. He scampered the rest of the way to the end zone untouched.
Standeffer was also responsible for TA’s best defensive play: an interception of White near the goal line late in the first half.
TA crossed midfield again after Standeffer’s touchdown hoping to add to its 7-3 lead, but a failed fake punt on fourth-and-11 gave the ball to Pike. The next play was White’s touchdown pass to Taylor down the sideline.
White added six more completions of 10-plus yards and later dove over the goal line from 1 yard out for the Patriots’ final touchdown. He also completed a pass to Taylor for the two-point conversion and had an interception and a pass breakup on defense.
“He’s got a strong arm and he can run. We worked all week trying to contain him; we were able to do it some, but he still got out of the pocket a lot of times,” TA coach Todd Bradford said. “He’s got great speed and it’s tough to defend a guy like that.”
Knights quarterback Whitt Winfield completed passes of 47 and 37 yards to sophomore Luke Kilgore. He finished 17 of 32 for 165 yards and two interceptions against a Patriots front that generated consistent pressure on him.
Tuscaloosa Academy (3-4 overall, 1-1 region) begins a stretch of three consecutive region games next week against Clarke Prep in Grove Hill.
“These guys gotta keep their head up. Our season starts next week – our region play, a real important part,” Bradford said. “We gotta end the season with our heads high.”