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Winterboro freezes AL Johnson’s playoff run

WINTERBORO – The Winterboro Bulldogs came out strong from the first whistle and didn’t let up until the last, coming away with a 36-12 win over A.L. Johnson in the first round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Class 1A playoffs on Friday.

Winterboro started the game with the ball on their own 41 yard line and an off sides call against the Eagles gave the Bulldogs an extra five yards. On first and five, Winterboro quarterback Josh Taylor connected with Courtney Evans for a 38-yard pass play to set the Bulldogs up at the A.L. Johnson 16 yard line. “Football is about taking chances,” Winterboro head coach Adam Fossett said. “We took a chance. We figured they were going to bite on the motion and come up. We knew we had a good chance athlete-wise with Courtney (Evans) running the seam. The guy bit on it; Courtney ran past him. Honestly the throw was a little behind him. If the throw was right on, we score on the first play. We knew that was going to be the first play of the game on Monday.”

Taylor said he was confident his receivers could beat the Eagles’ defense before the game even began.

“The first play of the game I saw there was no safety and I was like we’re gonna score,” Taylor said. “I knew once Courtney got past that first man, that first line of defense, it was a touchdown. Coming into the game we knew there was going to be one safety. I knew once my speedy receivers got behind them there wasn’t going to be anything they could do.”

Another off sides penalty moved the Bulldogs up to the 11. Troy Garrett took the ball and scampered 11 yards to put the Bulldogs on the board with 11:16 to go in the opening stanza.

The Eagles were forced to punt on their first possession of the game and Winterboro went back to work.

On third and six from the 47, Taylor fumbled the football and Johnson’s Eddie Custard scooped up the loose pigskin and took off toward the end zone. The two-point conversion was no good, but the Eagles had evened the score, 6-6 with 5:56 to go in the opening quarter.

Winterboro answered on their next drive after driving down the field with strong running from Bacardy McClendon, Troy Garrett and Curtavius Gray. Taylor took the ball into the end zone from three yards out. McClendon caught a pass from Taylor to complete the two-point conversion and Winterboro took the lead 14-6.

Neither team was able to accomplish much on their next drives and the Bulldogs took the eight-point lead into the locker room at halftime.

A.L. Johnson came out strong in the third period and drove the ball 63 yards while using six and a half minutes off the clock. Quarterback Kijuan McGhee took the ball into the end zone from one yard out to cap off the drive. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Eagles had pulled to within two points of the home team, 14-12 with 4:47 to go in the third stanza.

Winterboro didn’t waste any time answering. Evans took the ball on the first play from scrimmage and scampered 47 yards to the end zone. Taylor carried the ball over the goal line for the two-point conversion and the Bulldogs led 22-12 with 4:26 remaining in the third.

Winterboro found the end zone again in the fourth quarter on an 80-yard catch and run from Taylor to Evans. The two-point conversion failed, but the Bulldogs had extended their lead, 28-12 with 10:57 to go in the game.

The Bulldogs put the game away with 2:42 to go on a 19-yard run by Evans. Taylor connected with Jay Vincent for the two-point conversion to give Winterboro the 36-12 final.

“We accomplished what we wanted to do early,” Fossett said. “We got a little stagnant there for a while. When we fumbled and gave up the touchdown that hurt us a little bit. Realistically it was 12-0. That’s what the score should have been. They didn’t earn any of the first half points.”

Taylor completed four passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. Evans caught two passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. He also had 69 yards rushing. Garrett added 60 yards on eight carries.

“They’ve become the team leaders,” Fossett said. “Where are you without Troy Garrett and Courtney Evans? Without them we’re probably not playing this game tonight.”

Winterboro (8-3) will travel to take on Linden next week. Linden defeated Wadley, 40-10 in the first round on Friday.

“I heard they’ve got a good team,” Garrett said. “We’ve got a good team. We’re just going to battle it out on the field and whatever happens happens. But I hope we come out on top.”

Richard McGhee had 41 yards rushing for A.L. Johnson. Tyler Davis had 30.