Rebels look to return to state championship with a win over Patrician
Published 10:35 am Wednesday, November 8, 2023
Chambers Academy is just one win away from returning to the state championship for the first time since 2020. The last hurdle in the Rebels’ way is the defending state champions Patrician Academy.
The Saints are one of two teams in the playoffs that Chambers Academy has not already faced this season. The two teams are not completely unfamiliar with each other though.
Jonathan Lindsey at Patrician and Jason Allen at Chambers Academy are two of the longest-tenured head coaches in the state. Their teams have faced off over the past several years, and both programs share several similarities.
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“Going back to 2017, we played them for the state championship,” Allen said.
“They have the same coach, they run the same offense. They’re very akin to what we do from a Wing-T perspective. They’re under center like we were last year, but this year we’re more of a gun team. Their kids are a lot like ours. They expect to win every time they suit up and go out on the field. They’re defending state champs. Until somebody beats them, they’re the champs.”
Both teams bring their own dominant defensive lineman to the table. Ryan Smith has been a big part of Chambers Academy’s success on the defensive side. Smith also plays a big role as a lead blocker and pass catcher on offense.
The Saints bring Jay Lindsey to the table. Lindsey is considered to be one of the best defensive linemen in the AISA, and he is committed to playing tight end for Alabama.
Defensive coordinator Dillon NeSmith said earlier this season that he wanted to see this matchup at some point. Smith also said that he had been hoping for this matchup all season. Smith is not yet committed to playing football at the next level. This week, Smith looks to prove that he is as talented as any defensive lineman in Alabama.
“I don’t know how many times they’ll be lined up across from one another,” Allen said. “They both will definitely impact the game and have a huge say in how the game turns out. It’s a huge challenge for not only Ryan but our whole team.”
Lindsey’s best attribute is his blocking at tight end. Allen believes that the defense can negate that by playing sound fundamentals and getting every player to the ball.
“We just play sound football,” Allen said. “We realize that he’s a really good blocker. We’ve got to overcome that. We’ve got to win some battles with him. We’ve got to have 11 guys get to the football.”
The matchup between Smith and Lindsey is one that a lot of people are excited to see, but the game largely hinges on running back Luke Tarver.
Tarver has been a dominant force for the Rebels this season. The junior running back runs like his hair is on fire. Tarver has 1,452 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on the season.
“Luke is big in every game for us,” Allen said. “I think Luke proved against Glenwood that he’s a premiere back, and he’s just a premier player in our league on both sides of the ball. We need Luke to play well, but Luke always plays well.”
Despite not being the biggest player on the field, Tarver is one of the toughest players to tackle in open space. Tarver brings a punishing mentality to every game.
“He just hates to fail,” Allen said. “He never wants one guy to tackle him.”
Tarver represents a lot of what has made Chambers Academy so successful this season. Size does not matter to a single player in a Rebel uniform.
“We’ve got a very physical team,” Allen said. “They really adhere to what we do and what we ask them to do.”
The win over Glenwood sent shockwaves across the state, but this week’s matchup is Chambers Academy’s most important game of the season.
Allen believes his team can hang with the best of them, and he believes that the Rebels just need to eliminate unforced errors to win on Thursday.
“No turnovers and limit our penalties,” Allen said about the keys to winning. “Do what we’ve done all year. I think we’ve got a really good team. I think we’ve proven that we can play with just about anybody. We’ll do what we do. There’ll be a few wrinkles in there. It’s going to come down to blocking and tackling like it always does.”
Chambers Academy has missed the state championship two seasons in a row. That would not mean much for most schools, but the Rebels have a different standard.
Each and every member of the team started the season with a return to Montgomery in mind.
“Our goal was to get back to the state championship game and win it,” Allen said. “Anything less that is a disappointment. We haven’t been to a championship game in two years, we’re definitely hungry to get back.”