Tuscaloosa, Ala.--A former wide receiver that made the move to running back as a senior Terrell Kennedy picked the perfect time for a breakout performance as his helped McGill-Toolen to a 14-12 win over Spain Park and the school’s first state championship in football. Finishing the game with 203 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries to earn MVP honors, Kennedy’s play along with a strong defensive performance were the keys for the Yellow Jackets to take home the hardware.
“To me one of the biggest runs he had was on the last drive,” McGill-Toolen Coach Caleb Ross said of Kennedy. “He had a 17 or 18-yard run right there that really flipped the field position back in our favor. He had an incredible night.
“Terrell had played a little spot running back earlier in the year,” he added. “We got an injury to Cole Sharp and we moved Terrell to running back full-time and he’s never looked back. He’s a great, great young man. He’s one of our six captains on the football team going all the way back to the spring. I couldn’t be more proud of the night he had, he deserves it.”
Entering the game with 790 yards and 10 touchdowns on just 120 carries this season Kennedy was the offensive pacesetter for the Yellow Jackets in the first half as he gained 166 yards on just 12 carries with two touchdowns to give McGill-Toolen a 14-3 lead at the break.
After scoreless drives for both to start the game the Yellow Jackets took over on their own 46 with just over 10 minutes left in the first quarter and started out on what would become the first scoring drive of the game. It was a big play that put McGill-Toolen in business as Kennedy ripped off a 39-yard jaunt on the first play to move the ball to the 15. Five plays later he would finish off the drive with a four-yard touchdown to give McGill-Toolen the 7-0 lead.
Spain Park’s offense finally got going late in the first half when Joey Beatty’s 29-yard strike to Will Greene moved the ball from the Jaguars’ 48 to the 23-yard line of McGill-Toolen. Two plays later Larry Wooden’s 15-yard run put Spain Park in business just inside the 10-yard line, but a pair of penalties backed them up leading to a 37-yard Crosby Gray field goal.
With their lead down to just 7-3 McGill-Toolen’s offense cooled off for much of the rest of the first half until Kennedy again struck for the big play. Taking over on their own 46-yard line with 2:32 left in the first half it took the Yellow Jackets just one play to strike and once again it was Kennedy that did the damage.
Taking a handoff just off left guard Kennedy broke through the line of scrimmage and veered down the left sideline. Making one cut he cruised into the end zone for his second score of the game to give McGill-Toolen a commanding 14-3 lead.
That’s how things would remain until late in the third quarter when McGill-Toolen took over on its own five-yard line and marched across midfield. Looking like they were on their way to putting the game away the Yellow Jackets instead coughed the ball up with Spain Park’s Perry Young recovering for the Jaguars.
With some momentum on its side Spain Park put together the drive of the game. Taking 16 plays to grind out 60 yards with Beatty sneaking the ball over from one-yard out on fourth down the Jaguars cut the lead down to 14-9. Going for two in an attempt to make it a field goal game Spain Park came up short and it would prove to be a huge play in the game as McGill-Toolen fumbled the ball on the first play of the next possession to put the Jaguars right back in business.
Taking over on the McGill-Toolen 13-yard line with 5:47 left in the game Spain Park couldn’t move the ball at all and settled for a 29-yard Gray field goal to make it a two-point game. Spain Park had one final chance for the win, taking over the ball with 2:05 left on its own 27, but McGill-Toolen’s defense stood tall to preserve the win and the first state title in school history.