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Patriots survive another 1-point scare against Billingsley

LINDEN – Billingsley moved to within 1-point after scoring a touchdown with 52.5 seconds remaining in its second-round playoff game at Linden last night.

The Bears set up a two-point conversion, but the Patriot defense stuffed the attempt, holding on for the 33-32 win on Friday. The Bears were unable to avenge its regular-season 27-26 loss at Linden on Sept. 27.

With the win, Linden (12-0) will play its quarterfinal playoff game at Loachapoka (9-2), which won at Talladega County Central 15-8 last night. The Indians would host its first playoff game of the season, having won its first two on the road, opening with an 18-9 win at Maplesville.

Maurice Tate rolled up 288 yards rushing on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns, while Shantrell Braxton had 84 yards on 15 carries and a TD. Keiunta Goodwill made his one run count, a 12-yard touchdown carry.

Billingsley – which trailed 21-6, 27-12 and 33-18 – got the ball back with 5:04 left in the game, trailing 33-26 and pushed down the field, getting another score when Jamar Hopson punched through the line on a one-yard run with 52.5 seconds remaining to make the score 33-32. The Bears set up a two-point conversion, but the Linden defense stood tall, halting Hopson in his tracks and preserving the win.

Billingsley finished its season at 9-3 and tied for second in Class 1A Region 3, claiming the No. 4 seed. The Bears beat Region 4 top seed Wadley in the first round of the playoffs.

Loachapoka tied for first in Region 4 with Talladega County Central and Wadley, but took the No. 3 seed in its region.

“It came down to our kids’ character and heart,” said Linden head coach Andro Williams of the final conversion stop. “That’s the biggest thing that we’ve been preaching on, being able to excel and face the challenge in front of us. I just told them what we talked about from Day 1. We talked about accepting the challenge that somebody throws in front of us. It was the challenge that we took, and our kids responded. They came out and they did it when it counted.

“That shows their heart. They’ve been working hard all year. I love each and every one of these guys, and I’ve enjoyed myself more this year than any other year because of where these kids come from and the mentality that they bring to the table, and their desire, and their hard work. They just won’t quit. They continue to work hard. I appreciate their efforts.”

While the final two-point conversion stop was “the play” in everyone’s mind, Bilingsley was stopped on four of their five conversion attempts, any one of which would have given the win to the Bears.

“It isn’t just one play in a ballgame,” Williams said. “A lot of times, there are three or four plays that make a difference in a ballgame. We might have made just one more play than they made. Billingsley was down so much (by 15 points on three different occasions), and they fought back. We gave up another kickoff return for a touchdown, and we’ve just got to continue to work on that and get better. They didn’t quit, and our guys stepped up when they needed to step up. I wanted to shore up defensively, and make some stops defensively, and that’s where the ballgame got won at the end.

“Those kids from Billingsley have got a lot of character. They’re going to be winners in life because of what they’re doing. Our kids, I know they are going to be winners in life because of what they’re going through right now.”