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Tuscaloosa Academy wins state championship


Tuscaloosa Academy won the AISA Class AAA state championship game against Lee-Scott Academy by a score 27-26 Friday in Troy. (Photo by Tyler Myers)


 

TROY | Tuscaloosa Academy linebacker J.D. Diaz picked the right time to make his first career interception.

Diaz ended Lee-Scott Academy’s final possession Friday, and the Knights won 27-26 in the AISA Class AAA championship game at Troy University.

Diaz is one of 12 seniors who helped lead the Knights to a perfect season and claim the school’s first football championship. He made his interception at the Tuscaloosa Academy 33 with 41 seconds left. He stayed on the field as an offensive guard as the Knights ran one play before time expired.

“That was huge, my first interception ever,” said Diaz, who was in on five tackles. “I got dog-piled, but there’s no better feeling. They were jumping on me pretty hard, but I didn’t have a problem with it.”

Robert Johnson, who coached the Knights to a 13-0 record in his second season, got the traditional dunking with a cooler full of water.

“It felt cold. It felt great,” Johnson said. “I never mind those baths.

“It’s unbelievable. It really sets a standard, and these guys went undefeated. They wanted to play football, and they wanted to make a change. These seniors just decided they were tired of getting beat when they were younger, but they played a lot.

“They had good coaches before I got there, but we just had this group coming through. Hats off to these players and parents for believing in me and the administration for hiring me and all of us putting it together.”

Lee-Scott Academy got its final touchdown with 2:49 left on a 2-yard run by quarterback Jeremy Joseph, but defensive end Kyle Andrews blocked the extra-point kick.

“I was coming off the right edge,” Andrews said. “I knew I got a good jump on the snap. Right when I leaped, I knew I had it. It hit me right in the middle of both hands.”

Junior Jaevon Walton, a linebacker and running back, rushed for 58 yards and two touchdowns and led the Knights with 10 tackles.

Walton’s first touchdown came on a 1-yard run with 8 seconds left before halftime to tie the game at 13.

In the fourth quarter, the Knights faced second-and-9 from their own 25 when senior quarterback Jonathan Plott threw to Walton for a 70-yard gain to the Warriors’ 5. Walton scored on a 3-yard run with 8:31 left. The Knights led 27-20 after Austin Menard kicked the extra point.

In the third quarter, Lee-Scott Academy took a 20-13 lead when Caleb Bethune intercepted a pass and scored on a 24-yard return. The Warriors had other opportunities in the quarter but missed two field goals.

Walton and defensive end Terrell Bush teamed up to change the momentum. Walton blitzed and sacked Joseph, forcing a fumble. Bush picked up the ball and scored on a 53-yard return. Menard’s extra point tied it at 20.

“Jaevon was coming from the right side and hit the quarterback,” Bush said. “He had a good lick on him, and the ball came loose. We practice it all the time, scooping it and scoring. I wasn’t going to let anybody catch me.

“That one thing right there gave us that boost and told us we could do it. This is what it’s all about, right here. I love my teammates.”

Senior Clay Thomas led the Knights with 71 rushing yards on 16 carries. Plott completed 5 of 8 passes for 139 yards. Plott threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to senior Parker Farley in the first quarter.

“I knew that my team had my back, no matter what, no matter if I threw a pick-six or not,” Plott said. “I didn’t get myself down or anything.

“This means everything. I’ve been playing football since the fifth grade at TA. This is the greatest day of my life.”

Joseph scored the Warriors’ first touchdown on a 1-yard run in the first quarter. Thomas DeGrange scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter. DeGrange rushed for 61 yards on eight carries. Joseph completed 11 of 21 passes for 153 yards.

 Reach Andrew Carroll at andrew.carroll@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.