Linden soars over Eagles 49-8

Published 11:35 pm Thursday, October 23, 2008

After a sluggish start, Linden (9-0, 7-0) rolled to a 49-8 victory over Autaugaville (2-7, 2-6) Thursday night to wrap up its region schedule with an undefeated record.

“First thing is first, we’ve got to stay focused,” Patriot head coach Andro Williams said of his team, which turned the ball over four times during the contest. “The fumbles didn’t come from the technical part of it. They came because of mental things.”

The Patriots appeared pedestrian on defense early, allowing the Eagles to march the ball down the field and retain possession for most of the first quarter.

Just when the Linden defense appeared to be on the ropes, junior Gerald Bruno intercepted a pass at his own 11 yard line to hand the Patriots their first possession of the game with 4:32 remaining in the first quarter.

Linden appeared ready to capitalize as it chewed up 33 yards on two plays with back-to-back runs by seniors Maurice Tate and Shantrell Braxton before it coughed the ball up at its own 44 yard line to put its defense right back onto the field.

Autaugaville then mounted a seven-play drive that ended when Bruno plucked a pass out of the air at his own nine yard line to squelch the scoring threat. Linden worked in one offensive play before the first quarter ended with no score.

The Patriots struck early in the second quarter, utilizing a 31-yard pass from senior Ajalon Bruno to his cousin Gerald Bruno and three Tate rushes totaling 55 yards to push the ball to the five yard line. On the fifth play of the drive, Ajalon Bruno picked up a loose ball in the Linden backfield and darted ahead for the five-yard touchdown run to put Linden up. The drive covered 91 yards in five plays and left Linden with the 7-0 lead.

The teams then exchanged possessions before Linden found paydirt again when it capitalized on an Eagle miscue.

The Autaugaville punt attempt struck the up-back in the helmet and ricocheted toward the AHS end zone. Opportunistic freshman Julian Little pounced on the ball and ran it into the end zone to extend the Linden lead. Ajalon Bruno then connected with junior Rashad Hollins on the two-point conversion play to push the lead to 15-0 with 5:43 remaining in the half.

Just over two minutes later, Ajalon Bruno helped his own cause again with a 52-yard punt return for a touchdown to extend the lead to 21-0.

Linden punched in one more before the half when Braxton covered 32 yards on three carries, crossing the goal line for the 28-0 intermission lead.

“I was real pleased with it on the whole for the most part,” Williams said of his team’s effort.

Linden needed only four plays to find the end zone in the third quarter, scoring on a 50-yard run by Tate to up the lead to 35-0.

Autaugaville appeared to be putting together a counter when its nine-play drive was again halted by a Gerald Bruno interception, his third of the evening.

Linden altered the scoreboard again early in the fourth quarter when Tate scored from five yards out before finding the end zone again from seven yards away. His third touchdown run of the contest was set up by senior Kendall Raby’s forced fumble and senior Christopher Olds’ recovery at the Autaugaville 13 yard line.

“We’re having other guys step up for us in positions,” Williams said of the key contributions he has received from a number of his players.

Included among that group is freshman Terris Lewis, who recorded 10 tackles in the game.

“He doesn’t say a whole lot, but he’s going to bring intensity,” Williams said. “He came off blocks real well (Thursday night).”

Senior Dante Keller, who recorded seven tackles and three sacks while forcing a fumble from his defensive end position, complemented Lewis’ play. Junior safety Larente Taylor also recorded and interception and recovered a fumble.

Offensively, Tate led the way with 215 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. Braxton added 85 yards and a touchdown on only nine carries.

Tate’s game leaves him with 1,511 yards and 33 total touchdowns on the year.

Linded wraps up its regular season next week at 3A Aliceville.