October 24, 2010 12:40:00 AM
CARROLLTON, Ala. -- The Pickens Academy football team stood toe-to-toe with second ranked Bessemer Academy on Friday night and entered the fourth quarter in a scoreless stalemate.
But the Pirates fell just short of their upset bid of the undefeated Rebels in a 13-7 loss in the Alabama Independent Schools Association non-region game.
Pickens Academy (5-4), the fourth-place team in Class AA, Region 1, came inches shy of recovering an onside kick in the waning moments.
"For the most part, we were able to hold them in check until the fourth quarter when they made a few plays," Pickens Academy coach John Gartman said. "We came up short, but I was proud of how we played."
Bessemer Academy (9-0), which is the No. 1 team in Class AAA, Region 2, capitalized on a Pickens Academy fumble and a failed fourth down conversion to score their two touchdowns in the fourth.
"They whipped our butts for four quarters," Bessemer Academy coach Josh Wright said. "There is no doubt about it. We knew that coming in. We have lived on a wing and a prayer all year. We''ve got some injuries. We are 9-0, but we are not very good."
Quarterback Devin Johnson took on a blitz and lofted a 16-yard pass over two Pickens Academy defenders into the arms of Ashton Whitt for the first score. The second came when Jerrell Moore plowed in from 5 yards with less than four minutes to play.
The Pirates scored on Jacob Acker''s 11-yard touchdown pass to Forrest Lewis with 46 seconds remaining.
After kicking the extra point, Brad Lowery got the perfect bounce on the onside kick, as the ball went high in the air, which caused a mad scramble for the football. But Bessemer Academy emerged from the chaos with the football and claimed the victory to spoil the Pirates'' senior night.
The win was bittersweet for the Rebel coaching staff that is made up of mostly former Pickens Academy alumni. Wright is a former Pirate as is his younger brother, Johnathan, and coordinator Jeremy Perkins.
"Give Pickens credit, coach Gartman and them over there did a heck of a job," Wright said. "Their guys were ready to play. They came out and played harder, fought harder but made a couple mistakes. Luckily, we threw up a pass and somehow caught it."
Wright''s father, Lynn, is a volunteer assistant coach for the Rebels. He led Pickens Academy to undefeated state championships in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, and 1999, and spent the past few years as principal at New Hope High School.
Bessemer finished with 234 yards of offense, including 176 rushing.
Johnson led the Rebels with nine carries for 72 yards. He also completed 6 of 11 passes for 58 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Running back Marcus McAfee had 12 carries for 40 yards, while Drake Garrett had four catches for 32 yards.
Pickens Academy had 225 yards of offense, with 136 rushing and 89 passing. But the Pirates turned the ball over twice inside the red zone (the 20-yard line), including once at the 4.
"We moved it here and there and got inside the 20 two or three times with chances to score and made a couple of bad calls and had some miscues," Gartman said. "We had our chances, but it just wasn''t enough."
Acker was 6 for 12 for 89 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Garrett Estes carried 18 times for 57 yards to lead the Pirates.
Lewis caught three passes for 33 yards, while John Morgan Owens had two catches for 40 yards.
Pickens Academy will close the regular season next week at Marengo before traveling to Clarke Prep for the first round of the playoffs.