Alexandria denied Lincoln (5-3, 5-1) its chance to win the region championship on Friday night, beating the Golden Bears 19-7 in a physical defensive battle.
“I’m just very pleased with our kids,” Valley Cubs coach Frank Tucker said. “They had a strong will and played their hearts out. I give all the credit to the kids and the assistant coaches, who had a great gameplan.”
Alexandria controls its own destiny with the win. If the Valley Cubs defeat Jacksonville (5-3, 3-3) at home next week, they win the region title. If they fall to the Golden Eagles and Lincoln beats Cleburne County (4-4, 3-3), the championship goes to Lincoln. If both Alexandria and the Golden Bears lose, tiebreakers will be needed to decide a region winner.
In a 7-6 game, Alexandria (5-3, 5-1) took control right before the half and never looked back.
After Lincoln quarterback Chance Byrd kept the ball to score from one yard out to give the Golden Bears a 7-6 lead, the Valley Cubs responded immediately.
Getting the ball with 2:54 left in the half, tailback Justice Owens gave Alexandria great field position, returning the kick 48 yards to midfield. After helping get the offense down the field, Owens’ number was called again with 33 seconds left.
Quarterback Tanner Wells’ pass from the 25-yard line met Owens at the pylon to give Alexandria first and goal only inches from the end zone. Wells punched it in for six on the next play.
The Valley Cubs and Lincoln competed in as physical and defensive a second half as they come.
Lincoln’s defense started things on the right foot, forcing Alexandria to punt after losing yardage on three consecutive plays. But its offense was never able to take advantage of the opportunities given.
“We have been on such a roll offensively,” Golden Bears coach Ryan Herring said. “I have to look at film. I think they just studied and prepared for us and had a great plan.”
After Lincoln turned the ball over on downs on the 41, Alexandria scored what would be the dagger to Lincoln’s chest.
“So many times on third-down plays or fourth-down plays, they came up with the play,” Tucker said, enthused. “I was very pleased with our defense in crucial situations.”
After four different players carried the ball for the Valley Cubs going down the field, Wells threw his first pass of the drive, hitting Owens for a 25-yard touchdown to take a 19-7 lead.
“It brings a double threat,” Wells said about Owens returning from an injury. “He’s going to run the ball hard and he’s going to go out for a pass and catch it. I think he’s back to 100 percent, for sure.”
Only recording three first downs in the second half, including one on a penalty, Lincoln’s hopes deflated as Alexandria continued to run the clock out.
“I knew when we got that lead that they looked down,” Wells said. “We just kept running the clock out.”
The victory that keeps the Valley Cubs in the chase for the region championship also came in new black jerseys.
“They’re going to be part of our regular uniforms—it’s not a one-time thing,” Tucker said. “We just happened to order them and decided we’d wait until this week to wear them. It’s not that big a deal. We just decided to order some new jerseys and waited a while to wear them.
Lincoln tailback Tykey Sillmon, who suffered a high ankle sprain several weeks ago, saw limited action, carrying the ball five times for 10 yards. The Golden Bears were led on the ground by freshman Zay Caldwell, who finished the night with 14 rushes for 35 yards. Byrd competed 7 of 11 passes for 33 yards and a rushing score.
Owens finished with 33 rushes for 89 yards and a touchdown for Alexandria. He added two receptions for 49 yards and a score. Well completed 4 of 7 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown, adding a rushing TD, as well.