Wilcox wins AA title

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 23, 2003

The potent Edgewood Academy offense had just scored the go-ahead touchdown in the AISA AA State Championship game Friday in Troy State’s Movie Gallery Stadium.

With his team trailing 29-22 and 6:18 left in the game, Wilcox coach Chris Burford had one message for his team.

“When we got in the huddle before they kicked off I said ‘we’re going to score, go for two and win the ball game,” Burford said.

If the coach ever gets tired of winning ball games, maybe Burford can have a second career as a psychic.

The Wildcats of Wilcox followed his prediction to the letter.

Quarterback Phillip Merryman hit Chase Felts over the middle for a 26-yard touchdown.

“It was a great play,” Merryman said. “We spread them out with our wide guys and I just laid it up.

Chase made a great play on it.”

“Just the emotions got going, there wasn’t nothing stopping us then,” running back Michael Montee added.

Step one? Check.

Next Merryman handed the ball to running back Michael Riggs for the two-point conversion.

Riggs had the biggest hole of the night and waltzed into the end zone.

“When they called that play, it had been working the whole night.

We knew we’d get in there,” Riggs said. “Our line stepped up.

They’re sophomores over there and they played like seniors.”

Step two? Check.

The Wilcox defense had 3:51 to hold the Edgewood offense out of the end zone.

The Wildcats of Edgewood marched down the field and actually hit a long play into the end zone, but a pair of flags brought it back.

An exhausted defensive coordinator, Todd Cooper, turned around midway through the drive and said to whomever was within earshot, “I can’t yell anymore.”

The penalties and some good pressure pushed Edgewood into a fourth-and- 30.

They couldn’t convert and Wilcox held on for the state title win, 30-29.

Step three? Check.

“It’s unbelievable,” Burford said. “These kids, they don’t know how to quit.

They believe and they made me believe. I’m so proud of them.”

Wilcox won the game on big plays on offense and with a scrappy defensive effort against one of the best quick-strike offenses in the state.

“I’m totally exhausted,” Cooper said. “I know the boys are.

I thought they did a great job.

We gave up three big plays. Edgewood is a heck of a football team.”

Wilcox is a heck of a football team, too.

Three of their touchdowns came on plays of over 25 yards and the other was set up by a 47-yard pass and run.

‘It was just a great ball game,” a raspy-voiced Merryman said. “We knew what we had to do coming in.

We had to hold them, make them drive the ball.

We knew they’d make a mistake if we could make them drive.”

Merryman finished the game 4-of-7 passing for 129 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Many of Wilcox’s big passing plays came in down and distance situations that Edgewood should have expected the pass.

But nearly every time Wilcox threw, Edgewood didn’t seem prepared.

Felts finished with two catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.

Sam Mosley had two catches for 56 yards and a touchdown.

Wilcox got big gains on the ground as well. Montee had 104 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.

He had a long touchdown run that may go down as one of the stranger plays in AISA history.

At their own 33, Montee went up the middle.

Some confusion on the hand-off led to a fumble.

The ball bounced off the artificial turf of Movie Gallery Stadium and Montee reached back and calmly fielded the ball off the bounce, hardly breaking stride.

The defense seemed to freeze when the ball hit the turf and Montee was off to the races through a big gap in the middle.

One player got a piece of his ankle but Montee kept his balance and scored a 77-yard TD.

“We missed the hand-off. The ball just popped right out but it just popped back up to me,” Montee said. “I grabbed it and was wide open.”

Merryman had 40 rushing yards and Riggs had 69 yards on the ground in the winning effort.

“It’s the greatest day in my life, I never dreamed this,” Riggs said. “This is great.”

Riggs also had nine tackles and two assists.

Clint Akin added eight tackles and four assists. Felts added an interception.

Montee and Mosley each had a sack.

Mosley added seven tackles.

For Edgewood, Kyle Moore threw 30 times for 248 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 73 yards and a touchdown.

Josh Cain had 60 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Heath Woodruff added a touchdown run. Chase Brown had a pair of fumble recoveries for the Wildcats in green and yellow.

Wilcox took the ball first and Edgewood tried a little trickery right at the start that backfired.

They kicked the ball high and short, but Akin alertly called for a fair catch.

An Edgewood player didn’t see it and gave Wilcox 15 yards when he hit Akin late.

The offense seemed stalled, but on third-and-16 Wilcox went to the air and caught Edgewood completely off guard.

Merryman hit Felts over the middle for a 47-yard gain down to the 4-yard line.

A play later Montee bulled in for the early touchdown.

The two-point try failed but Wilcox led 6-0.

Edgewood responded with a long touchdown drive.

Moore capped it with a 7-yard touchdown keeper.

The extra point made it 7-6.

A Wilcox fumble gave Edgewood good field position.

A flea-flicker resulted in a big gainer from Moore to Tylor Hibbard all the way down to the 13.

A false start and a pass broken up by Akin resulted in a field goal try for Edgewood that sailed wide.

Starting at their 20, Wilcox moved the ball to the 33. On first down, Merryman and Montee lost the hand-off, but Montee snagged it on the bounce and was gone.

“It was kind of a tight play,” Montee said. “They kind of shifted down then it was wide open.”

Montee ran in the two-point conversion for a 14-7 lead.

The teams traded punts before Edgewood went on another drive.

On the Wilcox 23, Moore lobbed the ball to Chad Mansmann in the front right corner of the end zone for six.

The extra point try failed and Wilcox held on to a 14-13 lead. The teams went to the half at that score.

A roughing the kicker call pulled Edgewood’s bacon out of the fire on the first drive of the second half.

Instead of a Wilcox drive starting at the Edgewood 36, the Wildcats in Green and Yellow got the ball back.

They made Wilcox pay with

touchdown drive that put Edgewood up 19-13.

Merryman broke up the two-point try.

On the ensuing drive, Merryman’s fake-punt try came up inches short and left the Wildcats of Edgewood in great field position at the Wilcox 42.

Felts killed the drive with an interception,

but Wilcox fumbled it back at the 48.

A personal foul moved the ball up to the Wilcox 34.

The defense held and Edgewood lined up for a 36-yard try.

Bryan Villierre drove it high and the ball caromed off the right upright.

The ball fell straight down, bounced on the cross bar and slid across for the score.

Wilcox trailed 22-14.

Another little chip kick gave Wilcox the ball at their own 49-yard line.

On third-and-10, Merryman hit Mosley along the left side.

Mosley ran through a tackle and was gone for the 51-yard TD.

Montee stumbled into the end zone for two and the teams were tied at 22 with 9:13 left.

Edgewood’s high-octane offense went into motion. Woodruff capped the drive with a 12-yard reverse for a score.

The extra point gave Edgewood a 29-22 lead with 6:18 to play.

“When they scored and went up by seven, we all wanted to go for two,” Riggs said. “We knew we had it.”

Wilcox started at their own 39 and Montee fought to the 47.

He crossed midfield on the next play, then Merryman raced to the 28.

A pair of losses left Wilcox facing a third-and-16 at the 34.

Felts got 8 yards on a reverse, leaving a fourth-and-eight at the 26.

Merryman lobbed the ball to a wide open Felts for the score.

“No doubt,” Burford said. “When they scored and went up seven, I told Mike (Riggs) we’re going to go for two.”

They did.

Riggs could have brought a few friends through the hole with him as he breezed into the end zone for the one-point lead with 3:51 lead.

With Edgewood’s offense, 3:51 was an eternity for Wilcox.

On the first play, Moore fumbled but an alert Jared Gilbert recovered.

Two plays later a block below the waist pushed Edgewood into a third-and-22 at the 19.

Moore hit Hibbard on a wheel route for a 23-yard gain, a first down and new life.

They picked up another first down to the Wilcox 37 yard line.

On third down, Montee sacked Moore at the 41-yard line with just over a minute to play.

On fourth and 16, Moore scrambled wildly, just trying to stay alive.

He launched a bomb to the end zone for what appeared to be the game-winning score.

The Edgewood fans were going nuts, but two yellow flags tempered the celebration.

With 12 men on the field for Edgewood, the touchdown came back and they had a fourth-and-30 at the 44.

They fell short and Wilcox walked away with the win and the school’s third state title.

“It’s a great feeling,” Burford said. “The kids, they’ve worked hard since last November.

They’ve not only won, they’ve won off the field, too.

They’ve learned a lot about life.”