Prattville's Defense Leads the Way

Prattville Defensive Star Terrell Jackson

It was just a regular season game between two of the best class 6A programs in the state. Veteran coach Spence McCracken pitting his No.6 ranked and undefeated Opelika Bulldogs against the No.1 Prattville Lions in the fifth week of the 2007 football season Friday night at Bulldog Stadium in Opelika.

But the atmosphere surrounding the game was more like a playoff game. The lines to get into the stadium were 200 deep at 5 p.m. awaiting the opening of the gates at 5:30 p.m. Opelika had upset on their minds, the ‘Dawgs were pumped, their fans were in a frenzy awaiting the big game. You could cut the tension in the air with a pocket knife.

It was a gallant effort by Opelika. McCracken had a great game plan, and it worked for most of the game. But in the end, the results turned sour for the Bulldog faithful, as Prattville's defense found a way to win, while the offense struggled with the tough Bulldog defensive front. Prattville won 10-7 for their 21st consecutive win.

McCracken knew the secret to beating Prattville was simple; stop the rushing attack, stop No.2 (Justin Albert). In a brutal defensive struggle McCracken's fired up pack of Bulldogs found a way to slow down Albert with an 7-man front, and two men assigned to shadow Albert for most of the evening.

It almost worked, but good teams find a way to win. Prattville found two new stars in the waning seconds of the game. Senior linebacker Terrell Jackson and junior defensive lineman Alex Page said no way.

With 6,000 Bulldog faithful standing on their feet with 37 seconds left to play, the 'Dawgs had a first down at the Lion 42. Opelika was poised to pull the upset and undermine the Lions' high national rankings.

It wouldn't happen. Jackson sacked Opelika quarterback Brooks Robinson for a two yard loss on first down. Robinson then spiked the ball on second down for a needed time out. On third down, Page sacked Robinson for another two yard loss. On fourth down Robinson trying desperately to get a pass off was sacked by Jackson again this time for three-yards at the 49.

The Lions prevailed, and a wild celebration began. Prattville, of course, was flagged for an excessive celebration penalty, one of 11 flags tossed on the Lions. Opelika had six.

A disappointed hostile home crowd began to slowly depart Bulldog Field, but vowing to meet the Lions again in the post season.

Terrell Jackson and Alex Page became heroes when history recalls this exciting win number 98 for Bill Clark. Jackson ended the evening with five solo tackles, three assists, one sack for two-yard loss, two tackles behind line for six yards loss, and recovered a vital fumble that led to the game winning field goal.

Page had 10 total tackles, six assists and two solos, one quarterback sack and one tackle for loss. It was their unbelievable defensive plays at the very end that saved the day for Prattville.

"No doubt it was tough playing here tonight, but that's something we needed, overcoming adversity. It was like a playoff game, two teams just fighting their butts off," Bill Clark said following the game.

The old grizzled veteran McCracken echoed the same, "Prattville is a good team, and we played them as hard as we could. There was no quit in our guys. They played for 48 minutes, and just came up just short."

Prattville and Opelika exchanged punts on their first two possessions. The Lions took over at their 46. The Lions drove 56-yards in five plays with Casey Weston finding a wide open Lewis Haley open over the middle at the Opelika 45. Haley rambled the remaining yards untouched for the touchdown. Sung Hyun Bae kicked the extra point with 2:49 left in the quarter.

Opelika knotted the game following Bae's kickoff. McCracken taking a page out of old time football -bust you in the chops - with the fullback draw, a fake draw- a quarterback option. We are going to line up and whip you up front.

Senior running back Joran Spence did most of the damage with four consecutive trips. Jeffrey Dorsey scored the touchdown from the three-yardline. Brock Morris extra point tied the game 7-7 as the first quarter expired.

The Lions and 'Dawgs exchanged punts on the next two possessions. Following the Opelika punt, Prattville took over at their 10-yard line with 9:53 left in the half.

Prattville drove to the Opelika nine-yard line with a first and goal, over coming 30-yards in penalties. However a chain of bizarre events, a mishandling of a snap with Albert lined up in the backfield, another 10-yard penalty against the Lions, resulted in a third and goal from the 32. Weston then found Dekendrick Moncrief in the end zone for an apparent touchdown. The officials ruled Moncrief caught the ball out of bounds.

The two teams exchanged possession to begin the third quarter. Opelika began their second possession of the half at its 24 following a 40-yard punt by Owen McCoy. On a second and seven Robinson hit John Gunnels coming out of the backfield. Gunnels was hammered by Marlo Marshall causing him to cough up the pigskin. Jackson picked it up and returned it 15 yards to the Opelika 33.

Weston found Albert for a first down to the Opelika 17. Again a critical holding penalty negated the effort, moving the ball back to the 29, where the drive ended with Bae kicking a 30-yard field goal with 2:03 left in the game.

With 8:46 left Prattville began another sustained drive from its 26 yard line. Prattville drove 74-yards to the Opelika two-yard line. On fourth down the Lions had some confusion in lining up in a jumbo package, and was guilty of a false start. On fourth down Prattville used a halfback pass from Quaylan Moncrief to his brother Dekendrick in the corner of the Opelika end zone. The apparent touchdown was ruled out of bounds.

This set the stage for Opelika's last ditch effort.

The Lions (6-0, 3-0) will host region foe Sidney Lanier (1-3, 1-2) Friday night at Stanley-Jensen Stadium with a 7 p.m. kickoff. Opelika (4-1, 3-1) will travel to Smith Station (3-2, 2-1). The Panthers defeated Robert E. Lee Thursday night, 13-7.

PHS ----------OHS
First Downs---10---13
Rush-Yards---3-64--- 47-202
Fumbles-Lost ---1-0---1-1
Punts/Yards---4-145 ---3-111
3rd down conversions---3-10 ---7-13
4th down conversions---1-2 ---0-2
Time of Possession---22:15 ---25:45 source for Alabama high school football.

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