On a cold, fall Friday evening, the Tuscaloosa Academy Knights traveled to Montgomery, Ala., for the 3A AISA State Championship to play the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots.

“Disappointed with the loss, not with the effort. They played hard, played with class and laid it all out there… I couldn’t be more happier for them,” said Tuscaloosa Academy head coach Josh Wright.

Pike received possession first, snapping five plays; then were picked off by Tuscaloosa Academy SS Carson Claytor.

Unfortunately for the Knights, they struggled offensively, QB David McNeil, went 1-of-3, 8 yards, and forced to punt.

The Patriots dual threat QB Mayes White couldn’t be stopped, rushing for 56-yards, including a touchdown, giving Pike the first points of the night (7-0).

Both quarterbacks for the Knights took snaps, but chose to keep QB Freshman Preston Lancaster in at the position throughout the game. Between the two, they went 3-and-out with three straight incompletions and punted.

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Each team swapped punts, then; Pike executed its rushing game- running 64 yards down the field and scoring on a 13-yard run by RB Owen Law to extend the lead(14-0).

After Tuscaloosa Academy drove down the field, Lancaster was picked off in the end zone. However, the Knights defense held the Patriots, got the ball back, and scored on a 33-yard pass to WR Jack Standeffer to get on the board (14-7).

The next 30 seconds of explosion can only be described by one word: chaos. Pike’s WR/CB Kade Brookins returned a 73-yard kickoff return for a touchdown; then, Tuscaloosa Academy scored on a 70-yard kickoff return by LB/RB Jordan Evans; and finally, Pike’s RB Law scored on an 80-yard run on the first snap of its next possession, to make a 28-14 Pike lead at halftime.

“They love it and play for each other. The seniors and the example they made, setting the tone- its unbelievable,” said Wright.

Momentum seemed to shift to the Knights during the third quarter. After it’s three-and-out in the first possession out of half, DB/WR Wilson King intercepted Pike and scored on a 14-yard pass to cut the lead to 7 (28-21).

But, that would be all the momentum. The Patriots scored on a 68-yard run by RB Ian Foster, maintained possession after the kickoff brushed a Tuscaloosa Academy player and recovering, then, scoring on a 32-yard run by TE Kameron Baker, sealing the 41-21 victory for the Pike Patriots.

“This school is one big family, they feed off each other, and it’s great to be a part of it,” said Wright.

The Tuscaloosa Academy Knights end it’s reign in the AISA as 2021 runner ups. They join the AHSAA next football season.

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