Cougars win state title
Cougars win state title
GREENSBORO – The Southern Academy Cougars entered Lawson Field last night and took care of business, defeating the Shelby Academy Raiders, 13-0, to win the AISA Class 1A state title.
And with fireworks blasting and fans storming the field, the Cougars ended the night on top of the state in high school football.
The 2004 AISA Class 1A state champions.
“When we lost Erik Montz, I wasn’t sure how the team was going to respond,” Cougars head coach Shaun Bonds said. “I think he’s one of the best running backs in the state of Alabama. And when we lost that, I didn’t know how we were going to respond. They were all sick to their stomachs, because they didn’t know how they would respond.
“But we found a way to win and we got better as ours guys started making plays. They just stepped up. And I think we played better defense down the stretch. The last three games, we’ve been tough on defense. I just feel like the whole team felt like we needed to step up, and they did.”
To begin the game, the Cougars successfully drove down the field and drove down the clock to build a quick 7-0 lead.
“These guys showed a lot of courage,” Bonds said. “They showed what they were made of and they played with their hearts. And when you play from the heart, you win. I thought they really stepped up and this is a special group. Now we’ve got to go back to work on Monday and try to find a way to win this thing again next year.”
With 5:31 remaining in the first quarter, Wallace Drury connected with Thomas Langham for a nine-yard touchdown pass.
And after Drury’s extra point sailed through the uprights, the Cougars held onto a 7-0 lead.
On the first possession for the Raiders, the Cougars defense quickly stepped up and forced a punt before taking over at the 27-yard line.
The Cougars were again successfully able to drive down the field and cut into the clock time, but this time they were forced to attempt a 20-yard field goal that fell short.
But the Raiders could not move the ball successfully all night, as the Cougars defense stormed their opponents’ backs and receivers.
Towards the closing minutes of the first half, the Raiders’ Marcus Jones fumbled the pigskin as Brad McCrory pounced on the ball to give the Cougars possession at the nine-yard line.
And four plays later, the Cougars struck again.
With 2:00 left in the first half of play, Joey Christian rushed in two yards for the touchdown.
After Drury’s extra point attempt missed short, the Cougars increased their lead to 13-0.
And thanks in a large part to solid defense, the Cougars entered the locker room at halftime with a 13-point lead.
“When you’re out there playing you can do something,” Montz said. “But when you’re on the sidelines, you can just hope they do their job. And man, did they do their job. Our defense just stepped it up this year. Southern got it done.”
To begin the second half of play, the Raiders started off at their 37-yard line, but another solid performance by the Cougars defense resulted in a three and out.
This time, the Cougars made sure to run down the clock.
Andrew Hoggle took the ball time after time to help lead the Cougars down the field in what ended up becoming nearly 10 minutes of possession time for Southern Academy.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Hoggle said. “To go undefeated and win the state championship – you can’t beat it.”
In the fourth quarter and with the Cougars in the red zone and threatening to score again, Drury came out to attempt a 25-yard field goal that sailed short of the uprights.
But defense was the key to the Cougars holding off any Raiders threats in the second half of play.
After forcing the Raiders to punt through the first eight minutes or so of the final quarter, Shelby Academy finally had a big defensive stop when they blocked a punt late in the fourth quarter.
But Southern Academy’s defense was up to the challenge and eventually they forced the Raiders to attempt a 4th and 8 with about 4:00 to play in the game.
And as the Raiders pass attempt came up incomplete, the Cougars offense took the field with hopes of running out the clock.
Southern Academy was forced to punt the ball one final time, but the defense was ready to hit the field with high spirits with about 1:30 left to play in the ball game.
Once again, the Raiders attempt a 4th down conversion with about 40 seconds left in the game.
And this time when the pass came up short and incomplete, the Cougars sideline was ready to burst onto the field.
After taking over on a change of possession, the Cougars offense hit the field and took one final kneel as the clocks ticked off its final seconds.
As the final buzzer sounded in the AISA championship game, fireworks exploded as players and fans stormed the field in celebration.
And the Cougars had much to celebrate.
In a season full of injuries and difficult times, Southern Academy was able to weather the storm as they entered the postseason.
“I’m just speechless right now,” the Cougars’ Taylor Broussard said through tears of joy. “It’s awesome. It’s just awesome.”
The Cougars defense didn’t allow a single point in all three games of the playoffs, and they ended the night with a championship performance in a 13-0 shutout over the Raiders.
“Shelby averages 40 points a game, and we’ve held this bunch to seven points in two games,” Bonds said. “They [Shelby] are a good offensive team. We won this thing with defense. I know we knocked them off the ball a little, but we won this game with defense.
Congratulations to the Cougars on their perfect season.
It can’t get much better than this, especially for coach Bonds.
“I grew up here and when I grew up, this was to par,” Bonds said. “We played ball on this field every day as a child. And back in those days, people had dreams. I dreamed of playing under Vince Lombardi with the Green Bay Packers, and we all had dreams.
“And I said, how ironic would it be if we could win the state championship on the very field that I had all my dreams on. It was special, but to win it here was even more special because these are the grounds from my childhood.”
Well, dreams do come true.
And last night in Greensboro, the dream of winning a state title became a reality when Southern Academy knocked off Shelby Academy to win the AISA state championship.