November 10, 2013 1:28:20 AM
VERNON, Ala. -- One down, four to go.
The Lamar County High School football team opened the Alabama High School Activities Association Class 2A playoffs on a strong note Friday night with a 32-21 victory against Samson at George Bell Stadium.
After winning two playoff games last year, the Bulldogs hope to do even better this season thanks to winning the top seed in Region 4. Now needing three more wins to reach the state championship game, Lamar County will travel to Mobile Christian (8-3) for a second-round game Friday night.
"It is always good to get the first one out of the way," Lamar County coach Ken Adams said. "There is always some nervousness because you are in the playoffs and it is a different season. It does not matter how well you have played going in because everybody starts off. However, we did end the regular season on a good note, so I thought our strong play of late would carry over, and it did Friday night."
Dallas Cockerham led Lamar County (10-1) with 29 rushes for 135 yards. Cockerham scored on an 8-yard run and also threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Dusty Cann. A senior and four-year starter, Cockerham is 46 yards shy of 1,000 yards for the season.
Tim Harton began the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown run. Cullen Carter followed with a 30-yard touchdown run.
The Bulldogs sprinted to a 30-7 halftime advantage.
"Our first two drives were really good. They set the tone for the game," Adams said. "In a playoff game, you would like to be able to build a lead. It's a marathon, so the easier you can get separation, the better a situation that is for your team."
Dusty Vann led the way with eight tackles and two interceptions. The senior linebacker has 10 interceptions.
Samson ends the season at 6-5.
n G.W. Long 32, Aliceville 22: At Skipperville, Ala., a banner season for the Yellow Jackets ended with a hard-fought first-round AHSAA Class 2A playoff loss to one of the favorites in this classification.
Aliceville tied for first place in the Class 2A, Region 4 race. However, the tiebreaking process sent the Yellow Jackets on the road for their playoff opener. Aliceville also won seven games before losing in the second round last season.
"We had a great year," Aliceville coach Charles Moody said. "We lost some key players from last season, but I really thought this team did a great job of coming together and playing to its potential. It was a great season in a lot of ways."
Long (10-1) scored on the game's first two possessions. The Rebels drove 51 yards and got a 3-yard touchdown run by Stetson Payne to start the scoring. An 80-yard drive followed with Zachary Weldon scoring from 3 yards out.
Aliceville (7-4) answered with a 13-play, 63-yard drive, capped by a 1 yard-run from Jaterrius Steele. The Yellow Jackets then grabbed a 16-14 lead when Santiago Taylor hit Joe Robinson on a 28-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-17 play. Steele and Crowell scored on two-point conversion attempts and Aliceville led 16-14 with 7 minutes, 33 seconds left in the half.
Long responded with the biggest defensive play, as Payne intercepted Taylor and returned the football 62 yards for a touchdown and a 22-16 halftime lead.
Aliceville forced one last tie with a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown. The teams were tied at 22 midway through the third quarter.
Long took the lead for good three minutes later when Weldon broke a pair of tackles and rambled 49 yards for a touchdown. A 28-yard field goal by Long's Garrett Sanders iced the game with less than two minutes remaining.
"The interception before the half was big because we had gotten the momentum on our side," Moody said. "Offensively, we had moved the ball three or four possession in a row, and then that was a really a killer because it put us behind at halftime.
"They have such a great team and such a great offensive team. We knew we had to take advantage of every scoring opportunity, and we really couldn't answer there in the fourth quarter."
Long had 16 first downs and 324 yards. The Rebels fumbled twice and only attempted four passes. Aliceville committed 14 penalties for 123 yards.
"We gave them five first downs by penalties," Moody said. "We had a couple of sequences where we were off the field but a penalty extended the drive. You can't do that against a good offense."
Taylor was 13 of 25 for 219 yards, but he threw two interceptions. The Yellow Jackets' normally potent ground game was held to 113 yards.
n The Lakeside 25, Pickens Academy 24: At Carrollton, Ala., the ending was surprising and disappointing for the Pirates.
The Lakeside School blocked an extra-point attempt with two minutes remaining in regulation and held on to win in the Alabama Independent Schools Association Class A playoff opener.
Playing at home, Pickens Academy pulled within 25-24 on a 2-yard touchdown run by Chance Britt. However, the extra-point blocked ended the Pirates' season. A year after playing in the state championship game, Pickens Academy finishes the season at 7-4. The team lost four of its final five games.
"It was a great, hard-nosed game, very physical," Pickens Academy first-year head coach Josh Thacker said. "The credit goes to Lakeside for making more plays than we did. It is my fault we did not try a two-point conversion there at the end instead of trying for overtime."
Britt scored three touchdowns to pace Pickens Academy. Rushing for 94 yards on 20 carries, Britt also scored on runs of 1 and 10 yards.
The other touchdown was a Josh Lewis to Joseph McGlawn 53-yard touchdown pass. Lewis rushed for a team-high 148 yards. However, the Pirates failed to convert any of four extra-point attempts.
Lance Acker led the Pickens Academy defense with eight tackles, while Austin McCool and Daniel Powel each added four tackles.
Thacker felt like his first Pickens Academy squad had a successful season after a second-place finish in the Class A, Region 2 race.
"It was a fun year, and I think a successful one," Thacker said. "I thought the kids really did a great job. They worked hard all year and always competed. I couldn't be more pleased. A lot of people thought we would win three or four games. They kept doubting us and the kids kept going out and proving people wrong."
For the Lakeside (7-4), Peyton Owen scored on touchdown runs of 8, 7, and 18 yards.