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Riggins, Blue Devils answer rallying call


Buster Wolfe



SULLIGENT, Ala. -- The Sulligent High School football team has its own brand of magic. It''s called family. 


Trailing 12-0 early in the first quarter, Sulligent interim coach Ronnie Hubbert had a few words before his Blue Devils got the ball on the kickoff. 


"I just told them, ''We''ve got a long way to go. It''s right here,'' " Hubbert said. " ''It''s what we''ve worked for all year. If we want it, we''ve just got to go take it.'' And they responded.  


"There''s no magic, that''s for sure." 


Sulligent''s "family" approach helped it score 40 unanswered points en route to a 40-19 victory against Huntsville Westminster Christian in the second round of the Alabama High School Activities Association Class 2A playoffs. 


"Like we''ve done all year, like we''ve talked about all year: Family," Hubbert said. "We just close ranks, go on. They''ve been great." 


The victory pushes Sulligent (10-2) into a matchup against Lineville (9-3) on Friday in the quarterfinals. 


"We''ve been a family this year," said senior running back Ishmael Riggins, who carried 17 times for 244 yards and four touchdowns. "We focus on playing like a team." 


After going through the motions for the first 7 minutes, 47 seconds of the game, Sulligent snapped into shape to control the trenches and to dominate. 


"I wish we hadn''t started so slow though," Hubbert said. "I thought we were ready for them, but coach (Stephen) Hooks is a great coach and you''re never going to be ready. We felt like we were bigger." 


The Blue Devils outmatched the smaller Wildcats up front, creating the holes for Riggins and senior tailback Wesley Parson (22 carries, 108 yards). 


"It''s a great bunch. We talk about trying to dominate the line," Hubbert said. "We did a good job doing it." 


Senior running back Cody Dixon put the Wildcats'' first two scores on the board. He had a 5-yard run and -- after Westminster Christian intercepted Sulligent on the second play -- completed a short scoring drive with a 13-yard run. 


Hubbert then gave his squad the motivation it needed. To open the second quarter, Riggins rushed through right tackle untouched for a 3-yard touchdown. After a 47-yard run around left end, Riggins bulled over right tackle from 10 yards. After Logan Barnes'' second point-after kick, Sulligent led 14-12 with 7:21 in the second quarter. 


After Sulligent held Westminster Christian to a punt, quarterback John Potmesil connected with speedster Peter Swanigan on the first play for an 80-yard scoring pass down the left sideline. A muffed kick turned into a desperate dash for the end zone by Potmesil, who stretched the ball just inside the pylon for a 22-12 halftime lead. 


Hubbert said he was proud of Potmesil''s play on the PAT. 


"We run the ball a lot," said Hubbert, whose team had 400 rushing yards. "He''s the quarterback, so he wants to throw the ball 30 times a game. He stepped up and made that big throw, and he stepped up there and wanted to score. I was so proud of him and so proud for him." 


Riggins and Swanigan complemented each other during the contest -- Riggins'' bruising rushing style complemented Swanigan''s outside speed. After the two were compared to the New Orleans Saints running style of Tony Galbraith and Chuck Muncie "Thunder and Lightning" fame, Hubbert added another runner to the mix. 


"(Parson) reminds me from back in the day of an (Oakland) Raiders fullback," Hubbert said. "He''s going to keep going, he''s always going to fall forward, he''s going to do everything. He''s the epitome of a football player. He''s a great kid. 


"All three are good players," Hubbert said, "and you just love to watch kids like that." 


With a two-score lead at halftime, Hubbert again challenged the Blue Devils to take control. 


"That''s what we were talking about at the half," he said. "We''ve got the lead, we''ve got the ball; if we want it, let''s go take it right now. Again, they respond. That''s the way they feel." 


Sulligent opened the third quarter with an eight-play, 63-yard drive, alternating rushing plays between Riggins and Parson. Parson got the last touch on a 1-yard run over right guard for a 28-12 lead. 


Six plays later, Riggins went 6 yards over right tackle and Sulligent led 34-12. 


On the sixth play of Sulligent''s next drive, Riggins went over right tackle and saw nothing but daylight between him and the goal line 56 yards away. He shifted gears and outran the defense. 


"I told him, ''Way to get the first down'' right then," Hubbert said, praising the play of his offensive line. "The line has been doing a fantastic job here lately." 


Tony Johnson dominated for Sulligent with 16 tackles. Coco Metcalfe, who injured his knee in the second game of the year, followed with six tackles. 


"Coco Metcalfe missed almost the entire season," Hubbert said. "He''s been out and he''s gotten to play the last couple of weeks. He''s a force."



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