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Sulligent dominates, heads to playoffs next weekend


Adam Minichino



SULLIGENT, Ala. -- The Sulligent High School football team wants to use a mixture of domination, family, and focus to take the second season by storm. 


The postseason finally arrived Thursday night after a fittingly dominating performance in a 48-7 victory against South Lamar at Brown Stadium in the Alabama High School Athletic Association regular-season finale for both teams. 


Sulligent (8-2) clinched the Class 2A, Region 8 championship last week and will play host to West End Walnut Grove next Friday at Brown Stadium. 


"We''re just plugging," Sulligent High interim coach Ronnie Hubbert said. "We talk about dominating, and that''s what we try to do. We didn''t come out and play ball tonight. I told them if we come out next week and play ball like that it is going to be a short season." 


First, though, Sulligent flexed its muscles in earning its fourth straight victory against South Lamar (3-7), a Class 1A rival that failed to make the playoffs. 


Ishmael Riggins, Wesley Parson, and Peter Swanigan provided a three-pronged attack to fuel the Blue Devils. Riggins, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound running back, had a team-high 110 yards and a 30-yard touchdown run. Parson, a 5-11, 175-pound senior running back, added 67 rushing yards, including a 20-yard scoring run. Swanigan had a 29-yard touchdown run that helped him gain 54 rushing yards. He also caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback John Potmesil. 


Sulligent used its reserves through most of the second half and pulled away. 


Hubbert said the Blue Devils haven''t thrown the football much this season. He said the two games the Blue Devils have lost just happen to be the ones where they have thrown the football the most. And while Potmesil showed Thursday night he can move the ball through the air, Hubbert said the Blue Devils would prefer to keep the ball on the ground. 


Hubbert said the Blue Devils feel comfortable running the ball between the tackles or springing Riggins, Parson, or Swanigan outside so they can use their speed. He said he doesn''t want to become one-dimensional and will continue to search for the right mix of running and throwing. 


"It is just a matter of us jelling at the right time," Hubbert said. "We have some big kids, some good kids, and some great kids who really want to play. Sometimes we''re just not as focused as we need to be."  


South Lamar avoided the shutout in the fourth quarter when Ken Mitchell returned a kickoff 74 yards for a touchdown. The Stallions struggled all evening running the football and finished with just 49 total yards. 


But the Stallions had their chances in the first half to make a game of it. In the first quarter, a fourth-down pass that would have went for a first down went through the hands of a receiver. Trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, an opening for a hook and ladder on third-and-6 from the Sulligent 45 instead went for a 4-yard loss. The Stallions also couldn''t convert a first-and-goal from the Blue Devils'' 7 after a turnover. Another dropped pass, this one on third down, helped stall the drive. 


Sulligent capitalized, riding Riggins and Parson on an eight-play drive that Parson capped with a 20-yard touchdown run that helped make it 21-0 with 2 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in the first half. 


Both running backs credited the play of their offensive line for the team''s success this season. 


"If it weren''t for the line I wouldn''t have anything," Parson said. 


Said Riggins, "They have done great. I wouldn''t run behind any other line. They are the best. We get better every week." 


Sulligent has kept a promising season alive despite losing its head coach. Dwight Bowling was indicted last month on charges of child molestation and allegedly trying to get a victim to lie to authorities investigating the incidents. The veteran coach spent 28 years at Smithville High before moving to Sulligent High. 


Hubbert said the Blue Devils have maintained their focus thanks to a "no excuses" mind-set that has allowed them to move on. 


Riggins, who is in his first year as a running back, said the Blue Devils say "family" at the end of every practice and every game. The focus worked Thursday as Sulligent controlled the lines of scrimmage. Senior lineman Tony Johnson even had an interception to lead a strong defensive effort. 


The Blue Devils also hope that focus will carry them through the second season and allow them to reach their goal of playing in the state title game at Jordan-Hare Stadium on the campus of Auburn University. The state''s six classifications will play their championships Dec. 1-3. 


"We are working hard together and we''re staying together," Parson said. "We are still fighting and every day getting close to winning every game and getting to Auburn."


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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