Pike County Intercepts 3A Title

Pike County's defense was the big story as the Bulldogs won the Class 3A Championship Thursday afternoon.

Birmingham, Ala.—-Cherokee County came within an eyelash of pulling off the unthinkable, but in the end Pike County's defense and team speed were too much as the Bulldogs won the 3A State Championship for the second time in three seasons with a 10-6 victory Thursday at Legion Field.

For much of the game Cherokee County controlled the action and actually held a 6-2 advantage into the fourth quarter, but that's when Pike County took over thanks to a strong defense and a powerful rushing attack.

The play of the game came with 9:47 remaining in the fourth quarter and Cherokee County clinging to a slim 6-2 lead thanks to a stingy defense. Driving the ball into Pike County territory, the Warriors attempted a middle screen. Getting pressure from Bulldog defensive lineman Martez Boykin, Cherokee County quarterback Zach Morgan lofted a short pass over the middle and right into the hands of Pike County defender Tim Isaac.

Cherokee County junior Hershel Houston (6-0, 218) will be one of the state's top players next season as a fullback/linebacker.

With only junior standout Herschel Houston between him and the goal line, Isaac used a good block from a teammate at the 25 to walk into the endzone and give the Bulldogs the 8-6 lead. A two-point conversion moments later gave Pike County a 10-6 advantage, one they would never relinquish on the way to victory.

One bad play spoiled what had been an outstanding game by Morgan to that point. After being tripped in his own endzone for a safety early in the second quarter, the 6-3, 210 junior responded with a solid drive. Taking over the ball at his own 37, Morgan completed a 38-yard pass to Damion Chambers to the Pike County 25. Moments later the duo connected again, the time for the touchdown. The TD pass was the 17th of the season for Morgan and improved Chambers' total to nine receiving scores on the year.

It looked like that would be enough as Cherokee County completely baffled the Bulldog rushing attack for much of the afternoon. Coming into the game Pike County was averaging 48.8 points per game and allowing just 5.1 per contest. Much of the reason for that was a strong ground game led by junior running back James Jackson.

For the year Jackson had 1,459 yards and 29 touchdowns, but was held to just 38 yards on 12 carries through three quarters of play. Despite rushing for 155 yards in the first three quarters the Bulldogs couldn't sustain anything on offense. That set the stage for the defense to come up with a play, which triggered the running game in the fourth.

Behind the running of Jackson and company the Bulldogs took the ball back with just over four minutes left in the game and drove it all the way to the Cherokee County one-yard line before turning the ball over on downs with under a minute left. That was good enough to seal the win and another state title for Grant.

Pike County junior James Jackson led all rushers with 94 yards.

For the game Pike County rushed for 230 yards on 45 carries and had zero yards passing despite completing 3-10 attempts. It was defensively where they shined, holding Cherokee County to just 147 yards of total offense and only 62 yards on the ground. Individually Jackson led the Bulldogs with 94 yards on 21 carries. Fullback Jarmon Barrow added 64 yards on just nine attempts.

For Cherokee County Garvis Glass had 43 yards on 10 attempts while Houston had just 35 yards on 12 attempts after a 1,490 yard total coming into the contest. Morgan completed 6-11 passes for 85 yards and one touchdown, but had two big interceptions. One of which will be one he'll remember forever.

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