Purple Cats feel Hornets’ sting
John Essex entered the Alabama High School 1A playoffs for the first time in school history and claimed a 28-20 win over the Ariton Purple Cats at Dr. Robert Zumstein Stadium in Ariton Friday night. The Hornets (7-4) move on to play the winner of the Frisco City – Lochapoka game next Friday night. The Purple Cats end the season with an 8-3 record.
The Hornets were led by tailback Brian Matthews, who rolled up 114 yards on 12 carries and scored on a 12 yard run in the third quarter. Also leading the Hornets was linebacker Demetrie Edwards, who had a number of crushing hits to thwart Purple Cat drives.
Ariton opened the scoring on their first possession driving 67 yards in 6 plays keyed by a Brandon Casey run of 27 yards and a 15 yard penalty on the Hornets that moved the ball to the Essex 11 yard line. Justin Masters scored on the next play racing 11 yards up the middle for the first TD of the night. The PAT fell short leaving the score 6-0 with 9:41 to go in the first.
Essex answered two possessions later when on a second and six play from the Hornet 45 Keionte Phillips raced 55 yards up the middle for a touchdown. Frankie Glass scored on the two point conversion making the score 8-6 with 3:42 left in the first.
Ariton regained the lead following a 74 yard drive in a six plays when Masters again went up the middle for an 18 yard TD. Ariton’s two-point conversion was good making the score 14-8 with 2:26 left in the half.
The Hornets answered on the next possession when on a fourth and 1 at the Ariton 49 Phillips broke loose on a quarterback sneak and raced into the endzone. The PAT was blocked and the score was 14-14 with 1:26 left in the half.
John Essex took control of the game on their first possession of the second half when they marched 68 yards in 4 plays for the go ahead score at the 10:24 mark in the third quarter. The drive was keyed a Matthews 36 yard run to the Purple Cat 27. Two plays later, Matthews scored from 12 yards out. Glass caught a Phillips pass for the two-point conversion and the score was 22-14.
Ariton drew close at the 1:01 mark in the third when Joseph VanZandt found Justin Smith in the back corner of the endzone for a touchdown. The two-point conversion failed and John Essex led 22-20.
John Essex closed out the scoring on their next possession when they marched 71 yards in five plays for the final score. Chris Jones rambled 41 yards for the score at the 11:17 mark in the fourth quarter. The two-point conversion was no good but, that was all the Hornet defense needed to seal the win.
The Hornets piled up 361 yards total offense. 338 of those came on the ground with Matthews 114, Jones had 74 yards on 11 carries and Glass accounted for 90 yards on 7 carries.
The Hornets were flagged 15 times for a loss of 135 yards.
Ariton had 291 yards total offense with 179 coming through the air. VanZandt was 16 of 28 for 186 yards. Ariton’s leading rusher was Masters with 65 yards on 14 carries. Casey had 46 yards on 6 carries.
Ariton was penalized 10 times for 80 yards.