Playoff spot at stake for ACA, Sipsey Valley
Fri. October 26, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | By Andrew Carroll
TUSCALOOSA | Tradition favors the American Christian Academy football team in tonight’s Class 3A, Region 3 showdown, but it doesn’t guarantee a win.
ACA faces the Sipsey Valley Bears, who are hungry to make history. Tonight’s winner will qualify for the AHSAA playoffs. ACA has been there before, but the Bears are looking to make their first appearance since the school opened in 2010.
"We’ve been talking about making history," said Antonio Ford, Sipsey Valley’s second-year head coach. "That’s exactly what the boys have been saying. Bottom line, the winner takes it all.
"I think the guys completely grasped how big of a deal that would be for a third-year program. Now it’s the end of October, and we’re right here at the helm of accomplishing that goal."
John Causey’s first season as ACA’s head coach produced a 12-2 overall record and a 3-1 playoff record, but he had to replace key players and injuries have thinned the Patriots’ ranks. Junior Austin Mohlenbrok is winding up his first season as ACA’s starting quarterback. Garret Lewis, a junior, was Sipsey Valley’s starting quarterback as a freshman in 2010.
"We truly try to focus on ourselves, but we know they have a very talented football team," Causey said. "They’ve built it around Garret Lewis, and Coach Ford does a great job with them. We knew going into this year we were losing a lot of seniors. Not only were we trying to find replacements for those guys, but we moved up in classification (from Class 2A). Of course, that’s not an excuse. It’s our championship game, and we’ve got to approach it like that."
Lewis has thrown for 1,443 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has 544 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
"Our receivers have made life a lot easier for Garret along with the offensive line," Ford said. "We’ve got a lot of leadership up front. Garret does a great job of leading the offense and putting us in the right position. As far as rallying the troops, I think that Carson Windle is a great leader for us."
Windle is a running back who ranks second on the team with 440 rushing yards. He also starts on defense as an outside linebacker.
Braylan Smith is the leading receiver with 21 catches for 663 yards. Other targets for Lewis’ passes are Jamerius Leatherwood, Caleb Kuykendall, Logan Averett and tight end Tyler Duncan. Starters on the offensive line include tackles Austin Arrowood and Brylyn Falls, guards Jason Kelley and Jacob Donner and center Daniel Silvers.
Ronyell Edwards starts at defensive end. Free safety Damion Archibald leads the Bears with five interceptions. Garrett Hubbard is an outside linebacker, and sophomore Edwaun McNeil is a second-year starter at middle linebacker. Ford said McNeil has a 4.0 grade point average.
"To me, ACA is a very well-coached team," Ford said. "I think Coach Causey has done an incredible job. They play hard. They’re a lot bigger and more physical than my team, and that presents a problem in and of itself. John Roberts (receiver) is a player who gets our attention defensively.
"Whenever you have a tradition of winning in your program, it gives you a slight edge. That’s what we’re trying to build here at Sipsey Valley."
Causey said Newman Bailey has been a "pleasant surprise" at wide receiver. Causey also said that wide receiver Charlie Thigpen is out after undergoing knee surgery. Defensive backs Colton Bradford and Cole Campbell have been working at receiver. Aaron Box, Caleb Squires and Stevie Jones are running backs.
"We’ve been moving people around," Causey said. "They all want to play. The confidence comes from knowing what you’re doing."
Tackle Logan Elliot, center Austin Hallman and tackle Harry Stokes are seniors on the offensive line. The other starters are guards Will Sullivan and Nelson Brown.
ACA’s other seniors Roberts, Box, Jones and linebacker Shawn Blackburn.
Reach Andrew Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0223.