AHSAA Zero Week Prep Spotlight A Year Makes A Big Difference as Austin Black Bears Beat Spain Park in 3-OT Thriller

    What a difference a year made for Austin High School’s Black Bears! 
    Last season Coach Jeremy Perkins’ team lost to Spain Park on a late field goal 5-3 to open the 2014 prep football season. Last Friday, it was the Austin that kicked the winning field goal when Ivan Torres booted a 17-yarder through the uprights in the third overtime to give the Black Bears a 38-35 season-opening victory.
     The triple-overtime victory thrusted Austin into the Alabama High School Athletic Association Prep Spotlight for Week Zero of the prep football season.
     The Black Bears battled through a frustrating 2-8 season in 2014 that included a 28-26 setback versus Buckhorn in the second game and five losses coming by less than a touchdown.
      “After a while it can get in your head and shake your confidence,” Perkins said. “It was great to win this kind of game for a change. The biggest thing we are taking from this is confidence and momentum.”
     Running back Asa Martin had 29 carries for 280 yards and four touchdowns, Perkins said. He also caught a 66-yard TD pass and added 20 yards on two kick returns to finish with 366 total yards.
     “Asa had a complete game,” Perkins said. “He also played well on defense (at linebacker) and our quarterback Victor Garth also rushed for 100 yards.”
     Torres, a senior who joined the football team for the first time last spring, missed two tough-angle field goals, including one in the first overtime and one from 47 yards out.  He nailed the final one, however, that counted most.
    Austin led 14-7 at the half, then 21-14, then 21-20 in the fourth quarter when the Black Bears registered one of its three blocked kicks on the ensuing extra point. The lead extended to 28-20 late when the Jaguars scored and tied the game with a successful two-point conversion.
     Neither team scored in the first overtime with both missing field goals. In the second overtime  Austin scored on first down to take a 35-28 lead and Spain Park scored on fourth down to tie the game. In the third OT, the Black Bears defense held on three downs and Eric Washington blocked the Jags’ field-goal attempt to set up Torres’ winning kick.
     “Even though we finished 2-8 last season, we didn’t panic,” Perkins said. “We had a chance to win every game we played. We are in a very tough region. We didn’t have to make major adjustments and didn’t have many holes to fill.  The biggest thing our kids needed was the belief that they could make the plays to win. I think this was a big step in the right direction.”
     Austin’s team performance edged another outstanding team effort as Thompson High School, reeling after going 0-10 in 2014, beat Wetumpka 37-13 as new head coach Mark Freeman opened his tenure as the Warriors’ head coach. Freeman, 165-37 over in his 17-year head-coaching career, came to Thompson after going 50-7 in four seasons at Spanish Fort where his teams won two Class 5A state championships.
    Senior T.J. Rayam anchored a defensive front that sacked Wetumpka six times and limited the Indians to only 73 rushing yards on the night.  Carlos Stephens rushed for 125 yards on 25 carries for an offense that scored three touchdowns in the first four minutes of the game.
     In other top performances reported for Week Zero of the 2015 season:

TRE’ NATION, LEEDS: Gained 211 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns in a 19-14 season-opening loss to Madison Academy in the 10th annual Champions Challenge Classic at Cramton Bowl that pitted the defending 4A state champs versus the defending 3A state champs.
MALIK MILLER, MADISON ACADEMY: Ran for 146 yards on 24 carries and scored once as the Mustangs avenged their only loss from last season with a 2015 season-opening 19-14 win over defending 4A state champion Leeds in the 10th annual Champion Challenge. MA’s current winning streak extended to 15 in a row with the win televised statewide by Raycom Network from Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl.
ANDREW BROWN, WINSTON COUNTY: The Yellow Jackets’ running back had 18 carries for 206 yards and three touchdowns in Winston County’s 28-19 win over Haleyville. He also had 13 tackles from his linebacker position on defense.
COLTON KNIGHT, REHOBETH: Rushed for 202 yards and a touchdown in the Rebels' 20-13 win over Ashford, snapping a six-game losing streak to their Houston County rivals.
DALTON PARKS, DAR: After missing the second half of the season last year with an injury, the Patriots running back returned with 202 yards rushing and a touchdown on 17 carries to lead DAR over Douglas 27-7 in a Marshall County rivalry game. Quarterback T.J. Steele also passed for 107 yards and two touchdowns in the win. 
JAMARIUS MAYFIELD, SHELBY COUNTY: Rushed for 190 yards and two touchdowns on 11 attempts to lead the Wildcats past Jemison 42-6.
DEVONTA JOHNSON, CHEROKEE: Totaled 186 yards rushing and scored five touchdowns to lead Cherokee to a 43-7 season-opening win over R.A. Hubbard.
DAWSON DRAKE, CULLMAN: Made the transition from receiver to running back this season with style gaining 169 yards on 23 rush attempts as the Bearcats downed Arab 56-7. He ran for one TD, caught four passes for 35 yards and had an 8-yard reception for two-point conversion after a penalty backed Cullman up.  Ethan McMinn also had six carries – all inside the Arab 20 – and scored three of the Bearcats’ seven rushing touchdowns. He also had an interception on defense.
SHAQUILLE TERRY, McADORY: Needed only 10 carries to gain 153 yards as the Jackets beat Bibb County 41-14. He scored three rushing touchdowns.
TYRE GRAY, BENJAMIN RUSSELL: Rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 11 attempts and threw for another score to lead Benjamin Russell to a 33-14 win over B.C. Rain.
NIC ROLLO, COLD SPRINGS: The junior rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries, all in the first half, and the Panthers rolled to a 41-14 win over Brilliant. He ran for a 65-yard TD on the first play from scrimmage to start the 2015 season with a bang.
DEKARLOS BILLINGSLEY, SCOTTSBORO: Had 22 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-21 loss to Dalton Georgia Friday night and also had three tackles on defense.


DALTON SINQUEFIELD, SMITHS STATION: The senior quarterback rushed for 76 yards on six carries, scored two touchdowns and was 14-of-26 passing for 317 yards and two more scores as the Panthers thumped Americus, GA, in the season opener 41-13.
TY PIGROME, CLAY-CHALKVILLE: The defending Class 6A state champions won their 16th game in a row beating Blackman (TN) 38-7 at Murfreesboro as the senior quarterback completed 17-of-27 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 59 yards and another TD.
MONTY TURNER, FLORENCE: Passed for 286 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Falcons past Shades Valley 38-13.
ORLANDO LACEY, OPP: Completed 10-of-12 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 153 yards on 13 carries with three touchdowns in a 44-27 win over Luverne.
K.D. DAVIS, BESSEMER CITY: Completed 16-of-21 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers thumped Hueytown 34-6.
Completed 15-of-17 passes for 228 yards with two touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown in the 31-26 win over Geneva. He played just three quarters before missing the final quarter because of cramps.
GRAYSON EDGEMON, MADISON ACADEMY: Making his starting QB debut, the junior was 10-of-13 passing for 200 yards and one score in a 19-14 win over Leeds at the Champion Challenge played at Cramton Bowl.
WIL APPLETON, ALBERTVILLE: The junior quarterback was 12-of-15 passing for 182 yards and a touchdown in Albertville's 35-7 win over Columbia in veteran head coach Dale Pruitt's first game as the Aggies' coach. Appleton also rushed 5 and 36 yards for touchdowns.
BRADLEY NORTHCUTT, AUBURN: Rushed 27 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 117 yards and a TD in the Tigers' 45-38 Class 7A win over Gadsden City.

SLADE PRICE, CARVER-MONTGOMERY: Price was 18-of-25 passing for 338 yards and two touchdowns in his debut as the Wolverines quarterback as Carver fell 37-30 to Bob Jones in the Champions Challenge at Cramton Bowl. The game was officially a preseason jamboree game.  Xavier Lane had nine catches for 132 yards and a score and Darrion Steele had six for 142 yards and a score.
BRADY POLSON, BOB JONES: Was 16-of-25 passing for 159 yards and a touchdown in just over a half of play in the Patriots’ 37-30 Champions Challenge win over Carver-Montgomery.

JAKOBI BYRD, FLORENCE: Caught six passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns covering 49 and 58 yards as the Falcons beat Shades Valley 38-13.
T.J. SIMMONS, CLAY-CHALKVILLE: Caught four passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns as the Cougars went out-of-state to beat Blackman (TN) 38-7 at Murfreesboro.

JAVARIA NALLS, SHEFFIELD: Had two interceptions, returning one 40 yards for a TD, as Sheffield beat Mars Hill Bible 49-7. The Bulldogs finished with six interceptions on the night.
XAVIER LANE, GORDO: Returned an interception 95 yards in the Green Wave’s 28-21 Champions Challenge preseason game win over Glencoe. A few minutes earlier, teammate Pat Manning streaked 95 yards on a rush from scrimmage for another Gordo TD.
JAE-LYN RUSS, TALLADEGA: The defensive end forced three fumbles in Talladega’s 14-6 win over Talladega County Central.

ROBBIE ORFIELD, MADISON ACADEMY: Had nine tackles, including two sacks resulting in 20 yards in losses, as the Mustangs beat Leeds 19-14 in the Champions Challenge at Cramton Bowl.



DERRICK UNDERWOOD, HOMEWOOD: Returned a kickoff 90 yards for a game-tying touchdown in the first quarter and finished with 270 all-purpose yards as the Patriots beat Decatur 28-15. Underwood rushed for 143 yards on 25 carries and also caught three passes for 35 yards in the win.
KOBE BAGGETT, DOTHAN: Punted four times for 45.0-yard average and also caught three passes for 66 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown pass, in Dothan's 43-22 loss to Navarre (FL).