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Rebels shock Volunteers

By Barrett Welch

The Selma Times-Journal

MONROEVILLE — It was David vs. Goliath — round two — and David won again.

Lowndes Academy (10-3) knocked off No. 1 Monroe Academy (11-1) in a 27-21 overtime thriller on Friday to advance to the AISA Class AA state title game in Troy.

“This bunch amazes me,” said Lowndes coach Art Sullivan. “They don’t give up. This is one of the most fun groups I’ve ever coached. I don’t know if I’ve ever been as proud of a group as this.”

The loss was a bitter pill to swallow for a Monroe team that steamrolled opponents all season. The emotion was evident as the players trudged off the field and Volunteers coach Mitchell Tuberville choked back his emotions.

“Give Lowndes a lot of credit. They played a good ball game,” said Tuberville. “We’ve got a great group of kids and just came up a little bit short.”

The Rebels jumped out to an early 14-0 lead on the Volunteers behind a Tyler Bozeman touchdown run and halfback pass to Dusty Owen.

The Volunteers responded with 21 unanswered points before Lowndes quarterback Anderson Casey completed his first and only pass of the night to Justin Sexton for a 15-yard touchdown to knot the game at 21.

Bozeman, who rushed for 175 yards on 20 carries, scored his second rushing touchdown of the night on a 1-yard plunge to clinch the game.

Lowndes jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 65-yard Bozeman run on its second play from scrimmage.

James Hagood sacked quarterback Dustin Ellison on Monroe’s first play, and the Volunteers went three-and-out. Tyler Gregson’s punt went straight up, then bounced back 5 yards to give the Rebels the ball on the Monroe 27.

Bozeman found Owen on fourth and 4 via a 12-yard halfback pass to cap a four-play drive that put Lowndes up 14-0.

“I was about to run the ball, but the safety wasn’t covering our receiver, so I just tossed it over,” said Bozeman. “He was wide open.”

Monroe defensive back Graham Smith later blocked Tyler Love’s punt, and Fields Stallworth recovered to set the Volunteers up at the Lowndes 32. Ellison sneaked for a 1-yard touchdown to cap the four-play drive and cut the deficit to 14-7.

Ellison rushed for a 1-yard touchdown to cap an 11-play, 58-yard drive on the Volunteers’ next possession to tie the score at 14.

Cody Philen picked up a Monroe first down on a fake punt late in the third, and Paul Vermilyea scampered for a 46-yard touchdown on the next play for a 21-14 lead.

Casey converted a long third-and-goal to Sexton on the Rebels’ next drive, tying the game at 21.

“When we first snapped the ball, he was open,” said Casey. “I waited too long to throw it, and Justin didn’t take his eyes off of it. He made that play on his own.”

Lowndes had a chance to win the game in regulation as the Rebels drove 77 yards to the Monroe 12 before Owen missed a 29-yard field goal wide left.

In overtime, Sam Vermilyea gobbled up 7 yards on first down to get the Volunteers to the 3-yard line. He rushed to the 1 on the next play.

But the Rebel defense didn’t give up another inch. Buddy Bush stuffed Vermilyea on third down, and the entire defense clogged the gap on fourth down.

With the game on the line, Casey scampered for 7 yards to the 3 before Bozeman broke through from 1 yard out a few plays later to earn the Rebels’ second trip to Troy in three years.

“I don’t want to sleep tonight,” said Sullivan. “I might go fishing.”