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Sweet Water gets 5th state title in seven years

AUBURN — Sweet Water clinched its fifth Class 1A state championship in seven years Thursday when it dismantled R.A. Hubbard 36-0 in the Super Six.

The Bulldogs only led 13-0 at halftime, but put together a 23-point flurry in the third quarter before shifting into cruise control in the final period.

“This football team right here is a bunch of grinders,” Bulldog head coach Stacy Luker said in the post game press conference. The Bulldogs relied primarily on their ground attack, pushing the Hubbard defensive front for 275 rushing yards in the game. Six different Bulldog backs ran the ball as Sweet Water wore down the Chiefs.

Hubbard appeared game in the first quarter, recovering a fumble on the opening possession and playing to a scoreless tie in the period. Sweet Water finally broke through with 6:55 to play in the opening half when Brett Davis punched the ball in from a yard out. The Taylor Wilson extra point kick gave SWHS the 7-0 advantage.

Sweet Water stretched its lead on an alert play by offensive lineman Kyle Brown. Terrence Sewell reeled off a long run that appeared destined for six when a Chief defender stripped the ball inside the five yard line. The ball flew into the end zone where Brown rushed in to catch it in the air and give Sweet Water a 13-0 lead with 1:22 to go in the half. Wilson never got the extra point kick away as the Chiefs rushed in from the left side to preserve the deficit.

A long sack and a failed fourth-down conversion attempt gave the Bulldogs a chance to add to their lead with just over 30 seconds to go. Davis popped out from under center and hit Linc Luker along the right side. Luker worked his way up field before a pair of Chiefs punched the ball out handed possession back to Hubbard.

“We could have put that game away late in the second quarter when we had that turnover,” Luker said of the miscue.

The lack of ball control coupled with some uncharacteristic penalties slowed the Sweet Water attack in the first half. The Bulldogs suffered no such problems in the third quarter.

“Being clean, just playing clean,” Luker said of the focus of the Bulldogs’ halftime discussion. “We felt like we controlled the game defensively.”

The third quarter saw a pair of rushing touchdowns, one of which was set up by a Laderius Dumas interception return. Michael Thompson scored from six yards out to put the Bulldogs up 20-0 with 5:44 to play in the third. Just over a minute later, Auburn commit Chris Landrum had his second Jordan-Hare Stadium moment when he blasted his way into the end zone from eight yards away. Landrum’s first big moment in his future home stadium came earlier in the third quarter when he snuffed the Chiefs’ opening second half drive with a fumble recovery to set up the march that led to the Thompson scoring run.

Even up 27-0, the Bulldog defense did nothing to pull off the gas.

“When we smell blood in the water, we go get it,” linebacker Devann White, who led the game with 13 tackles, said.

White and teammate Trayun Jones brought down the Hubbard punter in the end zone after a bad snap, pushing Sweet Water’s advantage to 29-0 with 2:49 to go in the third quarter.

Hubbard kicked the all out of bounds on the ensuing safety punt, prompting a re-kick that saw Caderius Ward scoot 52 yards down the sideline for the final score of the game. Wilson’s extra point proved the exclamation point on Sweet Water’s return to Class 1A dominance.

“After that game we made a commitment to ourselves from November until now to get back here,” Dumas said of the Bulldogs third round loss to Loachapoka that ended their 2009 season.

Deon Waters led the ground game with 99 yards on 15 carries. Sewell added 82 on 11 totes while Thompson had 49 yards on 12 runs. Thompson also added six tackles and a sack.

“We’ve got each other’s backs,” Thompson said of the way the Sweet Water committee of runners approached the game throughout the season “We’re not really focused on ourselves. We’re trying to help each other.”

Landrum only carried the ball three times, but took home Most Valuable Player honors with the touchdown run, fumble recovery and nine tackles.

“It felt normal,” Landrum said of playing in Jordan-Hare for the first time. “Tonight, I was just really focused on my team.”

“He was determined,” Stacy Luker said of Landrum’s 2010 season, a campaign that saw him break his ankle in the first game of year, an injury from which he did not return until the playoffs.

That determination epitomized an 12-3 Bulldog team that went undefeated against Class 1A competition. It also handed the Bulldog coach his latest milestone.

“It was brought to my attention a few weeks ago that if we could win out, it would be my 100th win at Sweet Water,” Luker said. “I don’t go much for personal accolades, but to do it with this group is pretty special.”