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Pickens County faces huge test in AHSAA Class 1A, Region 5 play




By Barry Allen 


Special to The Dispatch  


REFORM, Ala. -- The Pickens County High School football team has had many great accomplishments under head coach Patrick Plott, but one thing that has eluded the Tornadoes is a trip to the Alabama High School Athletic Association Super Six, where all six classes play for the state championship. 


Pickens County was close last year, losing in the semifinals to the defending Class A state champion Marion County. A blocked extra point resulted in a 42-41 loss and sent the Red Raiders to the championship game rather than the Tornadoes. 


"That loss really hurt," Pickens County senior running back Jermarcus Brown said. "As seniors, we don't want to feel that way again. That is why we have done all of the little extra things this year. When it comes time to play the big games, we want to be good enough to win those games." 


Marion County has played in the last two Class A state championship games. The Red Raiders won a school record 14 games and defeated Linden 23-12 to win the 2011 state championship at Tuscaloosa's Bryant-Denny Stadium. Last year, the Red Raiders racked a school record 700 points before losing to Brantley 33-0 in the championship game at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium. 


In reaching the 2012 state championship game, Marion County posted two wins over Pickens County. In addition to the one-point win the semifinals, the Red Raiders posted 45-27 win on Oct. 19, 2012 to secure the region title. 


"You have to catch so many breaks to win a state championship and we have been able to do that two years in a row," Marion County coach Rusty Funk said. "We know how good Pickens County is. We were fortunate to win the playoff game last year. It appears they may even be better this year." 


Fast forward one year and the Tornadoes will get their chance to avenge both losses when the two West Alabama powers' collide at Bill Rayburn Stadium at Don Jones Field in Guin. The winner of this game will have the upper hand in the Region 5 championship race with only one region game left on the schedule. Pickens County will host Berry in the final week of region play next week, while Marion County will travel to Brilliant for its final region game. 


The two teams combined for 155 points in the two meetings last season and more of the same is expected Friday. 


"We are two evenly matched teams," Plott said. "When we have played in games like this in the past, we have had too many turnovers. When you play an elite team, your margin for error is extremely small. We know that again this week, we will have to go out and play the perfect game." 


Pickens County (7-0, 5-0 Class A, Region 5) is averaging 58 points in its last three wins over Aliceville (54), Parrish (70) and Hubbertville (50). 


Marion County (6-1, 4-1 Class A, Region 5) is the equal to Pickens County on offense. The Red Raiders are averaging 53.7 points per game this season and have scored 60 or more points three times against Hackleburg (61), Hubbertville (60) and Lynn (78). 


Both teams scored 78 points in lopsided wins over region foe Lynn. 


"We know that we will have to play a great game on offense," Pickens County quarterback Devonte Simon said. "We have a lot of confidence in our defense, but we are going to go into the game with mind-set that we are going to have score a lot of points to win." 


Defensively, Pickens County has the edge. The Tornadoes have allowed only 63 points (9.0 per game) in seven games, while the Red Raiders have yielded 204 points (29.1 per game).



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