It was all smiles between the pair as Owens relayed his account of what happened on a play during which he took a shot to the knee during the high-scoring affair at Lou Scales Stadium.
Whatever incidental bumps and bruises the two incurred, it was nothing compared to the damage they did to the Aggies’ defense Friday night in the first-round of the AHSAA Class 4A state playoffs.
They gained 328 of the Valley Cubs’ 419 yards of offense on the ground and scored all seven of their offensive touchdowns as the Valley Cubs advanced to the second-round where they’ll face No. 7 Deshler, the 2010 state runners-up.
Deshler defeated Corner 33-10 in its first-round matchup.
“When we’re blocking well for both of them, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense because you’ve got one going one way and the other going another way,” fifth-year Alexandria coach Frank Tucker said.
“Justice is a great back also. When he’s clicking, that helps Jarline.”
The tandem tag-teamed Fairview for touchdowns all night with the 5-foot-6, 167-pound Lee leading the way with a
season-high 39 carries for 221 yards and five touchdowns.
Lee is the latest in a long line of great tailbacks to come out of Alexandra (8-3). The list includes greats such as former Mr. Football award-winner Mac Campbell, the state’s all-time leading rusher, and Chris Evans, Samford’s all-time leading rusher as well as recent standouts such as Terrell Stewart, a former first-team all-state selection, and Jaron Johnson, the 2009 Class 4A-6A Calhoun County Player of the Year.
“I don’t know. We’ve just been fortunate,” Tucker said. “We’ve had good running backs here. I don’t know why we’ve had so many good ones but he fits in that mold.”
Lee gained 115 yards and scored on 19 carries, providing all four of the Valley Cubs’ first-half points as they overcame an early 7-0 deficit to lead 34-20 at the half.
Owens, who went for 107 yards on 15 carries, did most of his damage in the second half when he provided both of his touchdown runs.
He took a handoff outside near the left sideline and wound up in the end zone 38 yards after shaking a defender out of his shoes with a cutback move to the inside to give Alexandria a 41-20 lead with 9:18 remaining in the third. The junior nearly got his jersey ripped off as he shed defenders on his way to a 30-yard run for a score with about 39.3 seconds left in the third that put his team ahead 48-34.
“It’s the line,” Owens said. “They’ve just been blocking. The seniors know it’s their last year and they don’t want to go home. They did what they had to do and we did what we had to do.”
The Valley Cubs took control of the game when senior safety Tyler Burr picked off a Luke Bailey Pass in Alexandria territory and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown to put the home team ahead for the first time at 14-7 with 8:09 left in the first quarter. He stripped the ball away from an Aggie receiver on the next possession. The Valley Cubs recovered the fumble and turned it into another touchdown.
Bailey came into the game with more than 2,700 passing yards and close to 30 touchdowns against only three interceptions.
“We feel like if a team’s going to throw the ball a lot we ought to get some turnovers,” Tucker said. “That’s kind of the mindset we got. If he’s going to sling it around, by golly let’s get some turnovers. Burr just made a great play on two of them and I think that was the difference. We didn’t stop them, they didn’t stop us, but they had three turnovers.”
Bailey completed 20 of 26 attempts for 260 yards and two touchdowns but added two interceptions.
The Aggies (7-4) pulled to within seven at 41-34 on a 5-yard touchdown run from Bailey but never got close. Lee’s final touchdown run, a 2-yarder on 4th-and-goal with 7:25 to play put Alexandria up 54-34.
“We just had a hard time slowing them down,” Fairview coach George Redding said. “They’re an outstanding offensive team with some unbelievable talent and we just didn’t make some of the plays that we needed to make.”
The Valley Cubs have been on an offensive explosion as of late, scoring 129 points in their last two home games, including when they set a school record with 74 points in their Week 8 win against Locust Fork.
“It’s just hard work,” Lee said. “And we’ve got to continue to work hard in conditioning and give it 100 percent.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.