By Ronald Frazier
Coach Jason Gibson summed Friday’s night’s game in correct terms for his 2018 Gators, who trounced Pike Liberal Arts by a 50-7 score Nov. 2nd on the road in the first round of the AISA class AAA playoffs.
“Our guys have worked hard all year. All but one team we played had winning records and eight of those teams were in some level of playoffs. It was a huge win for our program and our players,” Gibson said of his team.
Prior to the game Gibson prophesized that, “Turnovers are a big part of playoff football. If we don’t turn the ball over we have a good chance to win.”
Gibson was right.
Pike with a 9-1 record versus Glenwood, going in at 4-6, was favored to win, especially since the game was in Troy. Add to that was Autauga Academy’s big victory over the Gators on the road the week before. But the Gators came in as Gibson said “had the mindset ready to play.”
Pacing the win against Pike was the Glenwood defense that accounted for six turnovers and scored 16 points to spark the Gators and seal the win.
“They could not run against our defense,” Gibson said of his defenders.
Now the Gators will face a familiar foe in the AISA semifinals, Bessemer Academy, who won their first round game and as a higher seed will host the game.
The two teams met in the regular season, a 37-20 win by the Rebels and it was Bessemer who used special teams to defeat Glenwood with two long kick returns that set up two first and goals and a scoop and score.
“Our defense played a very good game against Bessemer, it was special teams that let us down,” said Gibson after the loss to the Rebels earlier in the year.
The Gator defense will look to contain Justin Jones. He had the two long kickoff returns that set up the two scores as well as a 77-yard run for Bessemer’s first TD and was the Rebels longest play from scrimmage for the game.
Glenwood wasted no time in putting pressure on Pike for their big win in the quarterfinals. The Gators tried an onside kick off to start the game and that did not work. However, the Patriots were held with a three and out and had to punt.
Glenwood drove 73 yards with quarterback Bryce Valero doing most of the work on the ground and finishing the scoring drive with a one-yard plunge. Backup quarterback Bryce Newman then passed to Allandis Boyd for a two-point conversion and the Gators had an 8-0 lead and never looked back.
Pike’s second possession resulted in an interception by Justin Jackson and again it was Valero on a one-yard plunge with Garrett Hall kicking the extra point.
Special teams got into the act, still in the first quarter when the defense held Pike to another three and out and Trevor Crisco’s punt return set up the drive on a first down at the 30.
Valero had his third TD, this time a 26-yard run and the route was on.
A botched snap was recovered BJ Snellgrove started the ball rolling for the Gator offense and Valero found Skylar Polumbo for a 20-yard TD. That made the score 27-0 and the game was still in the first quarter.
Polumbo had his best game of the year for the Gators as he picked up a Pike fumble and ran 45 yards for a touchdown in the second period. That gave him two scores in the game.
Crisco made a defensive play as he intercepted Pike’s third pass and then caught a long TD pass from Valero to make it 41-0. Glenwood’s final points of the half came when there was another high snap and Pike quarterback Jade Sikes fell on the ball in the end zone for a Gator safety.
With it 43-0, the second half was played with a running clock and each team scored once.
Polumbo got another defensive score as he recovered yet another high snap in the end zone in the third quarter for his third TD and a 50-0 lead. Backup quarterback Drew Nelson for Pike threw to Levi Sykes in the final minute of the fourth quarter for the Patriots only score of the game.
By that time most of Glenwood’s first string offense and defense were on the sidelines.
“Valero did not play in the second half and neither did Lawrence Vinson and Trevor (Crisco) started the second half on defense but we took him out later in the second half and both Allandis Boyd and Justin Jackson were also on the bench,” said Gibson.
“I don’t have the final totals but Valero ran and passed for 100 yards in the first half alone,” Gibson added.
“This was our best game since the win against Tuscaloosa and we advanced farther than last year’s team. Now we get ready for Bessemer and we are still in it,” said Gibson for the Nov. 9 game.