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Linden dumps Loachapoka in 3rd round romp

LOACHAPOKA — Jerome Tate made his point clear.

Speaking at midfield to both his Loachapoka Indians and the visiting Linden Patriots, who just minutes earlier put the finishing touches on a 24-6, Class 1A third-round playoff win, Tate let everyone know what he expected.

If his Indians were going to lose, he wanted it to be to the team that won it all.

“I want to lose to the state champs,” Tate said to the Patriot players. “You hear me? I want to lose to the state champs.”

After Friday’s win, Linden is just two games away from that goal. The Patriots will play at Sweet Water in the semifinals next Friday for the right to go to the state championship game.

But first, Linden, and its powerful running game, had to get through the Loachapoka defense that was giving up under 10 points per game coming in.

Mission accomplished.

Linden (13-0), behind workhorse Maurice Tate and speedster Shantrell Braxton, pounded the Indians for 207 combined rushing yards and an 18-point win, despite losing three first-half fumbles.

“We didn’t play our style of football,” Linden head coach Andro Williams said. “But we played well enough to win. I’m happy with that.

“We put the ball on the ground, and we don’t do that. I think they came out over-anticipating. Part of that has to do with this being a young football team. But they’re a good group and they work hard. We moved the ball and we were able to get the win.

“We’ll go back to work next week.”

The season ends for Loachapoka, who finished 9-3.

“We played OK,” Jerome Tate said. “We didn’t play great, but we played OK. They got a good football team. For them to come here and play that well against our defense, they showed how good they are.”

]Linden’s first two possessions of the night ended with fumbles. However, Loachapoka was unable to capitalize, going with back-to-back three-and-outs.

Linden’s third offensive series was the charm, as quarterback Ajalon Bruno capped a seven-play, 77-yard drive with a 1-yard sneak. The PAT was blocked, giving the Patriots a 6-0 lead.

Linden fumbled again on its next possession, but again, Loachapoka couldn’t make anything of it.

“We didn’t capitalize on the opportunities they gave us,” Jerome Tate said.

Linden scored just before halftime to take a 12-0 lead into the break when Bruno hit Larente Taylor in the back of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown.

Maurice Tate, who finished with 122 yards on 29 carries, started the scoring for the Patriots in the second half, as he bulled his way in from 1 yard out. His touchdown run was set up by an interception by Terris Lewis three plays earlier.

But Loachapoka wouldn’t quit.

On their next possession after Linden went up 18-0, the Indians drove the ball 12 plays and covered 71 yards for its only scoring drive of the night. Poka quarterback Patrick Moore, who rushed six times on the drive, scored from 1 yard out to put the Indians on the board.

It wasn’t enough, however, as Linden made it a three-score game midway through the fourth quarter when Bruno kept it around the right end on fourth-and-goal from the Indians 2-yard line to make it 24-6.

Vontrez Hutchinson led Loachapoka on the ground, rushing for 41 yards on 11 carries. Moore was 8-of-16 passing for 112 yards and two interceptions.