Linden scores area’s biggest upset, defeating no, 4 Autaugaville 28-16

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Two weeks ago, the Linden Patriots’ football season was 24 minutes away from being over. Down 9-0 at halftime to A.L. Johnson in a winner-take-all game to decide the final playoff spot out of 1A Region 4, Patriot head coach Luther Davis challenged his team to keep 2005 alive.

“I asked them if they were ready to go home,” Davis said after the Patriots had pulled out a 14-9 victory. “They said they weren’t ready. So we made some offensive adjustments.”

Those adjustments turned out to be the needed spark that has propelled Linden to a three-game winning streak and a berth in the second round of the 1A playoffs, after the Patriots pulled off a huge 28-16 upset Friday of the state’s no. 4 1A team, Autaugaville. Linden was one of only five teams (out of 60) in all of AHSAA to win their match-up with a ranked team.

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The Eagles came into their game with Linden with a 10-0 record and the Region 3 championship, but even at home Autaugaville had no answer for Linden’s newest weapon: a

deadly accurate passing game.

Starting quarterback Jared Jackson went 12 of 15 for 254 yards and two touchdowns against Autaugaville as the Patriots seized control of the game from the get-go. Junior Darnell Richardson had started for most of the season, but Jackson had helped engineer the Patriots’ late-game rallies against John Essex and A.L. Johnson with his arm and drew the starting assignment for Autauagaville.

The move by the Linden coaching staff paid immediate dividends as Jackson connected with Maurice Tate for a 7-yard score and then new receiver Richardson on the two-point try to give the Patriots an early 8-0 lead.

Autuagaville responded with a touchdown of their own on their first possession, but from there it was almost all Linden. Jackson hit Darnell’s brother Sean Richardson with a 40-yard touchdown strike to put the Patriots up 14-8. Darnell then got his own score, dashing 38 yards on fourth down for a 22-8 lead.

If there was any remaining doubt about Richardson’s ability to impact the game even without the starting QB assignment, he erased them with a nine-yard run in the fourth quarter that gave Linden a 28-8 lead and effectively iced the game. The 28 points was the most scored on the Autaugaville defense this season.

“I got good blocking from my offensive line and I have to thank my boys at receiver,” Jackson told the Montgomery Advertiser afterwards. “Darnell, Sean and the rest of them did a good job making plays. We executed what we’ve been working on all week.”

Davis said of the Eagles the Thursday before the game that “we feel like they haven’t been hit hard. We’ve got to come out and hit them,” and Linden did exactly that. Even after a late touchdown that cut the final margin to 28-16, the Patriots held Autaugaville a full two scores under their average of 30.1 points-per-game.

“We saw some things when we looked at the film this week,” Davis told the Advertiser. “We felt like we could stop their option and we felt like our passing game would work. Jared has really come on for us. He just started playing quarterback for us three games ago. But he is calm back there and he makes plays.”

Jackson will have a chance to make those plays in front of a home crowd this Friday when Linden will look to advance to the state quarterfinals with a win over Region 1 runner-up Frisco City in Linden. Frisco City advanced to the second round with a 20-0 win over Ariton. A win over the 9-2 Whippets could potentially give Linden a second shot at undefeated and second-ranked American Christian, who the Patriots battled for a half Oct. 7 before falling 33-12.

The Times was unable to reach Davis for comment Monday.