One more game: Lanett plays in second state championship in three years

Published 6:00 am Thursday, December 5, 2019

Lanett’s run to the state championship has been a gauntlet, as the No. 3 Panthers have faced two of the top four teams in their last two games.

The run started in the third round of the playoffs, when the Panthers hosted No. 4 Isabella. They won that game easily, while quarterback Kristian Story broke a couple of state records.

They then traveled to No. 2 Sweet Water, which was three hours away from the comfort of Lanett. That game was a dog fight until the end, as the Panthers defeated the Bulldogs with a touchdown pass with 38 seconds left in the game.

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Now, Lanett has one more big test in its way.

The Panthers will take on No. 1 and reigning 1A State Champion Mars Hill Bible on Thursday at Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn in the class 1A title game.

Mars Hill, also the Panthers, started its football program in 2014 and has already become a juggernaut in 1A. In its last two seasons, it has lost only one game. That game was a one-point loss at 4A Brooks in 2018. Since that week five loss last year, Mars Hill has outscored its opponents 1,179 to 341 (an 838-point difference).

“We’re focused more on Lanett,” Lanett coach Clifford Story said. “A lot of times you get caught up in so many things that other team do, that you forget to [focus] what you really need to do. So, we’ve been working on correcting some things we did wrong last week. Fixing up and cleaning up some things.”

Story said it’s obvious that Mars Hill Bible will be a challenge.

“They’re complete football team,” he said. “They don’t have a 29-game winning streak for nothing.”

Mars Hill runs the wing-t offense, which is what Lanett faced in its game at Sweet Water. Mars Hill runs three different backs, all of which are dangerous. Justus McDaniel is the most physical back, Hunter Kilpatrick is the shifty back, while Peyton Higgins is the team’s all-around back that can run a defender over as well as make a player miss in open space.

Per the TimesDaily, before Mars Hill’s semifinal game against Pickens County, Higgins had run for more than 1,400 yards, McDaniel 1,200 and Kilpatrick 641. Kilpatrick missed three games during the season, or he could have broken 1,000 as well.

Higgins finished 2018 as a first-team all-state player.

Alongside those three backs, Mars Hill runs out a giant offensive line that has a pair of tackles the size of college players. One stands 6-foot-5, 319 pounds, while the other stands 6-foot-4 290 pounds.

Story and Lanett have faced large offensive lines several times this season.

“My kids have a lot guts, they have a lot of heart and they have a lot of fight. They’re not going to give up,” Story said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to make some plays. I know we’re not that big, and we’re going to get knocked off the ball some. But as long is at the end of the night, if, we’re a little bit more consistent standing on the line, we’ll have a chance.”

The game is set for 4 p.m. EST

“They’re going to be a tough task, but at the end of the day, to be the best you’ve got to beat the best. They’re the defending state champs,” Story said. “They’ve proven that that they are what they are. So, we’ve got to have kids ready to roll.”