Rebels punch ticket to fourth-consecutive state championship game

Published 12:12 am Saturday, November 10, 2018

LaFAYETTE — The Chambers Academy Rebels broke open a close game in the third quarter with three touchdowns to extend a 14-7 halftime lead to a 36-7 advantage and coasted home with a 36-13 win over the Wilcox Academy Wildcats on cool, windy Friday evening at Torbert Field. The win improves the Chambers record to 12-0 on the year and sets up a state championship game at Troy University with a very good Crenshaw Christian team, who defeated Southern Academy 34-7 to advance to the finals on their side of the bracket.

The unanswered question for the 2018 season is this: Will this be the year the Rebels overcome the championship game hex to win the school’s first-ever state title in football?

This is the fourth straight year Chambers has made it to a state championship game. They’ve lost the previous three due to a combination of playing a good team, having some unbelievably bad luck and being on the short end of some questionable officiating.

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Friday’s win over Wilcox had its share of tense moments. After taking a 6-0 first quarter lead on a short run by C.J. Lyons, the Rebels fell behind 7-6 early in the second quarter. Things were looking pretty grim when Chambers faced a fourth-and-five situation near midfield. In what would prove to be one of the biggest plays of the game, Braxton Allen took a short snap in punt formation and got loose around left end on a fake punt. He made the sideline and ran 38 yards to give the Rebels a first down deep in Wildcat territory.

Working with a short field, it wouldn’t take the Rebels long to make the end zone. A one-yard run by Lyons made it 12-7 with 9:31 left in the half. The lead went to seven points, 14-7, on a pass from quarterback Payton Allen to Lyons just past the pylon on the left side of the field.

Chambers had a couple more scoring chances before halftime but couldn’t put the ball in the end zone. They had a great chance to score after Dean Sheffield recovered a muffed punt on the Wildcat 24, but Chambers fumbled it back a couple of plays later. Another scoring chance ended when Wilcox intercepted a pass in the end zone with less than a minute left in the half.

Those two missed scoring opportunities made it clear it was anybody’s game at halftime.

The Rebels took command in the third quarter and left no doubt who the better team was. The Rebels received the second half kickoff and drove for a score to take a 20-7 lead. On a third-and-eight play, Payton Allen found Jordan Gillespie open in the left flat on a short pass play. The senior running back/receiver raced down the far sideline some 40 yards got put the Rebels up by two touchdowns. Allen’s PAT try was wide left, but with 9:28 left in the quarter, Chambers was up by 13 points.

Sensing the kill, the Chambers defense asserted itself, holding the Wildcat offense at bay and getting the ball back for the offense. Brody Smoot, Jake Waldrop and Dijon Darden made some big plays in denying the visitors a chance to get closer. Following a punt, the Rebels put the ball in play on their 20. On the second play of the series, Lyons ran through a big hole on the right side of the line. It looked as if he’d been shot out of a cannon as he made the home sideline and was off to the races. The 73-yard TD run made the score 26-7 in favor of the Rebels. They tacked on two more points when Hayden Harris powered his way up the middle, crossing the goal line on very physical run. That made it 28-7 with 4:56 left in the quarter.

It was now desperation time for the Wildcats. They drove the ball past midfield and went for it on fourth and four near the Chambers 40. They came up two yards short, and the Rebels took over on their 39 with 3:02 left in the quarter. 

The Rebels would take it 61 yards to add one more score. Braxton Allen got them started with a run off right tackle to the Wilcox 37. It then became the Hayden Harris show with the big senior running the ball three straight times and picking up another first down. After absorbing that kind of thunder, the Rebels gave them some lightning on the next play by handing the ball to Lyons.

The gifted senior ran the ball through a gaping hole off the right side and was off to the races once again, running the ball some 43 yards and another TD. He suffered a cramp crossing the goal line, but with the Rebels now holding a 34-7 lead with 58.5 seconds left in the third quarter, Lyons could sit out the rest of the game and look toward next week’s title game with Crenshaw.

The lead went to 36-7 on a pass from Allen to Colton Hand.

The Wildcats did get a consolation score on a penalty-aided drive midway of the final period. That made it 36-13 with 5:25 left. Wilcox got the ball back late in the game but a final scoring bid was halted by a Colton Hand interception in the end zone.

‘”We are heading to Troy!” exclaimed stadium announcer Jonathan “Moose” Mapp as the final seconds ticked off the clock. The celebrating home crowd was treated to a fireworks show.

The 12-0 Rebels will be going back to Troy for a fourth straight year and one more try to finally bring back home that state championship trophy.

It’s been a time coming, but this might be the year. These players and coaches have worked awfully hard to get back to Troy and to win that state title game.