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A.L. Johnson, Linden on top at jamboree

The A.L. Johnson Eagles hosted a four-team jamboree Thursday night and showed why many are expecting them to be a major factor in loaded 1A Region 4, drumming R.C. Hatch 22-0 in one half of play.

In the second half, Johnson’s Region 4 rivals Linden and John Essex squared off with the Patriots capitalizing on a pair of big gains to take a 14-0 win. The scrimmage was marred by what appeared to be a serious leg injury to starting Essex quarterback Keionte Phillips.

Johnson was in complete control throughout their two quarters of play versus R.C. Hatch. The Eagles took an 8-0 lead on their opening possession, James Robinson pushing the ball across from close range before Keyon Fritts carried for the two-point conversion.

Robinson was far from done, however. After scoring his second touchdown on the Eagles’ second possession (conversion failed), the big running back notched his third on Johnson’s final possession of the scrimmage, taking the handoff from QB Michael McGee and racing 21 yards around right end for the score and a 20-0 lead. The Eagles converted to wrap up a 22-0 final score.

Coming off a winless 2004, R.C. Hatch struggled to contain Johnson’s athletic defensive line–led by tackle Aymar Johnson and end John Raby–but did show some spark on their final possession thanks to QB William Burrell. Despite facing a 3rd-and-20, the Bobcats converted when Burrell rolled to his right and completed a 24-yard pass along the right sideline. Burrell then took off on a 3rd-and-25 three plays later, racking up 22 yards but coming up just short of the first down. The Eagles held on fourth to preserve the shutout.

In the second half of the jamboree, two 60-yards-plus plays from the Linden Patriots led their way to a 14-0 win. Essex took possession first and went to the air, with quarterback Phillips connecting on several passes including a 16-yard completion to convert 3rd-and-15 on the Linden 35.

But the drive stalled thanks to the play of Linden defensive end Marcus “Catfish” Catlin, who blew through the Hornet offensive line for two tackles for loss and a 10-yard sack on the possession.

On just the second play of Linden’s first possession, Patriot quarterback Darnell Richardson faked a handoff right before sprinting around left end and dashing 60 yards all the way to the end zone for a 6-0 lead.

Essex failed to respond as Linden safety Carlos Tate knocked away a well-thrown deep ball by Phillips to force a punt. The Hornets were dealt a more serious blow on the last play of the third quarter as Phillips, playing left corner for the Essex defense, was part of a group of players that rolled into the chain-link fence surrounding the Johnson field. Phillips got up only briefly before needing to be helped off the field. He did not return and had to be assisted to the locker room at the end of the game.

Back-up QB Surron Allen played valiantly, but could not get Essex into scoring range and Linden put the half away with a second touchdown. Starting from their own 40 with approximately five minutes remaining, Linden handed the ball to big back Marvin Richardson and watched him rumble 56 yards to the Essex four. The Hornets appeared top have made a goal-line stand when a 4th-down pass fell incomplete, but a flag flew for interference and two plays later QB Richardson scored his second TD, sprinting into the left corner from 11 yards out.

The Patriots will look to build on their momentum when they open the season next Friday on the road–the LONG road–at Woodland High, in Randolph County. The Hornets begin their season traveling to Dixons Mills to take on the Marengo Panthers.

A.L. Johnson will open the season at home versus 2A Keith, while R.C. Hatch will move up in class to take on 4A Hillcrest-Evergreen of Conecuh County.