Chambers looks to return to greatness with state title shot on Thursday
Published 10:26 am Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Chambers Academy returns to the state championship for the first time since 2020 as the Rebels face a familiar foe in Banks Academy.
Chambers Academy faces the Jets this Thursday with the AISA 2A state championship on the line. The Rebels dominated on the way to this game, winning 11 games in a row and winning both of its playoff games by more than 30 points.
Chambers Academy dominated Banks Academy when the two teams faced off earlier in the regular season, winning that game 67-18. However, Chambers Academy coach Jason Allen expects this game to be much different.
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The Jets were without a few key players in the first matchup, and Allen knows that the second time you face a team is always more difficult than the first.
The loss to the Rebels was Banks Academy’s only loss this season. The Jets were without Artrell Cox, Cox starts at fullback and middle linebacker. John Mcgee, one of Banks Academy’s top offensive and defensive linemen, was also out for the matchup.
“I think they’ll have more confidence this time knowing that they’ve got everybody at their complete disposal,” Allen said. “It’s the state championship game. They’re going to be playing hard, and I’m sure they’re going to be looking to avenge the loss that we gave them earlier in the year.”
The Jets run an offense that is not atypical in the AISA. Banks looks to run a spread offense with four wideouts and one running back in the backfield. The Jets run the ball often with the inside zone, and then the offense tries to catch defensives off guard with play-action passes and deep shots.
“They like to stretch the field vertically,” Allen said. “The quarterback throws the deep ball really well, and they’ve got a couple of guys that can really run. We’ve got to make sure we keep them in front of us and we keep their run game in check.”
Luke Tarver and Jacob Norgard are the basis of everything that Chambers Academy will do on the offensive side. The duo in the backfield has been one of the best one-two punches in the state this season.
Tarver has been the leading rusher this season, totaling 1,571 rushing yards on the season to go along with 23 touchdowns. Despite missing three games, Norgard has not been far behind. Norgard currently has 979 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on the season.
“We’re a misdirection run team with play action and a quick passing game,” Allen said. “We’ve got to establish the run every time we play if we’re going to be successful. We’ll try to hit you from multiple angles and multiple formations.”
The Rebels’ defensive line, led by Ryan Smith, is going to be essential this week against Banks Academy. The Jets look to set up their passing game by establishing the run game early on. The defensive line will be essential in stopping the run, and the secondary just has to hold up their end in the passing game.
“They played really well last time and just did not let them run the football at all,” Allen said about the defensive line. “On the back end, we’ve got to make sure that we do a good job of keeping those guys in front of us. Koreen Henry, Aidan Anglin, Kyle Hand and Luke Tarver, those guys have got to play really well.”
The secondary for Chambers Academy has been tested against heavy pass offenses over the past few weeks, and the defensive backs have responded in a big way. Those matchups, especially the one against Glenwood, should have the Rebels prepared for this week.
“I think it’s really been good for us,” Allen said. “I think our secondary has gotten better all year long. I thought the Glenwood game gave us a shot of confidence against a really good receiving corps. We were able to keep them in check for the most part.”
Trips to Montgomery are nothing new for the Rebels’ program. During his tenure, Allen has won two state championships with Chambers Academy and the team has made regular appearances in the state title game.
However, their last trip to the state championship came in 2020. The seniors on the team this season were just freshmen, and several key players did not play in the game.
“We haven’t been in two years, so most of these kids were puppies,” Allen said. “It’s kind of a new deal for them. Our program is not a stranger to this setting. I’m hoping our guys will play with great excitement and great passion. Once the game gets going, after the first couple of plays, it’s just another football game.”
If Chambers Academy does win on Thursday, it would not be his first time hoisting the trophy. This one is just as big, if not bigger, as any that he has won in the past, and this team has a chance to hold a special place in the Rebels’ history.
“All of them are huge if you can win one,” Allen said. “They’re really hard to win. Every team is a different team. This team has been a team that has just gotten better and better. To be able to culminate the season we’ve had, from starting out the season with a loss to winning 11 in a row. It would make it a really special team, one of the best that has ever been here.”