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Linden dumps Maplesville

LINDEN – If there was ever any doubt that Linden was a legitimate contender in Class 1A Region 3, it was all erased last night.

The Patriots (5-0) upended region foe and perennial 1A powerhouse Maplesville (4-1) Friday night 23-14, clearing what most considered their largest hurdle en route to a region championship.

“We played hard,” Linden coach Andro Williams said. “I think we lost our focus some a few times but we played hard. This was a big game but they’re all big games. The season’s not over. We haven’t done anything yet.”

A night that ended with a win got off to a shaky start. After exchanging punts to open the game, the Patriots muffed a punt on their own 4 yard line, setting up a 4 yard run one-play later by Chris Bailey only three minutes into the contest.

With Maplesville driving yet again late in the first, Justin Tensley scooped up a Red Devil fumble and rumbled 35 yards and set up camp at the Maplesville 14.

The drive stalled when Anthony Johnson took an interception 40 yards in the other direction, giving the Red Devils a 14-point lead.

The Maplesville defense clogged the running lanes all night, neutralizing Patriot star tailback Kendarius Fritts. With the ground game struggling, quarterback Anthony Robinson hit Gerald Bruno in stride for a 65-yard touchdown strike to cut the lead in half.

On Linden’s next drive, Robinson connected again, this time with Larente Taylor, on a 55 yard bomb, setting up a 20 yard touchdown run two plays later by Fritts and tying the game at 14 going into the half.

The Maplesville defense held Fritts to 64 yards in the first half, but Robinson erupted for 176 yards through the air.

The defensive struggle continued through the third quarter with both teams exchanging turnover. An interception by Taylor halted what had been a promising Maplesville drive following a Red Devil fumble recovery.

Linden was the first to put points on the board in the fourth, scoring on a 55 yard interception return by Keiunta Goodwill, giving the Patriots the 20-14 lead after the extra point kick failed.

On Maplesville’s ensuing drive, quarterback Matthew Hamner took a hard hit and was escorted off the field. The Red Devils wanted a penalty and when no flag was thrown, the wheels started to come off for the Red Devils.

Maplesville drew two personal fouls back-to-back and after their first play since Hamner was removed from the game resulted in a tackle for a loss, they were hit with another.

Hugging their goal line and forced to punt from fourth and across the highway, Linden marched the punt slowly down the field before nailing a 30-yard field goal, giving the Patriots the 23-14 win.

“This was a good win for us,” Williams said. “The way our region is set up, it’s certainly possible that we’ll play these guys again but that’s in the playoffs and we’ll address that when the time comes. I’m glad to get this game behind us. Now it’s on to the next one.”

Fritts finished the night with 76 yards on 25 carries. Robinson amassed 234 yards passing. Taylor led the Linden receiving corps with 106 yards