AISA title game pits Longhorns against 57-game Edgewood win streak

Josh Holifield eludes a Clarke Prep would-be tackler on his way to a 32 yard touchdown run.

Josh Holifield eludes a Clarke Prep would-be tackler on his way to a 32 yard touchdown run.

It was Friday, Oct. 22, 2010 when Glenwood Academy beat Edgewood 13-12. At the time, it was just one loss in a non-region game on a random Friday night in October that left Elmore-based Wildcats standing at 8-2 on the season. The significance of that loss is still being defined some four years later as Edgewood has not suffered a defeat since.

Shade Pritchett wraps up a Clark Prep ball carrier.

Shade Pritchett wraps up a Clark Prep ball carrier.

The Wildcats went on to win the AISA, Class AA state championship that season, its first of four consecutive crowns.

“It started in 2010. I don’t think you can accomplish anything great in life without having to overcome some adversity,” Edgewood coach Bobby Carr said, recalling the genesis of a win streak that now stands at 57 straight wins. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that when this streak started, it was about the roughest time of any that I’ve been at Edgewood. We had to bury a former football player and about a week later we had to bury his best friend, a former cheerleader, who died in a car wreck.”

Those tragedies coupled with the grim reality of health problems faced by Carr’s parents left the Edgewood program in need of something special.

“I think everybody really, really became unified as a family. Our motto since then has become that the little ‘e’ on the front of the jersey has become more important than the name on the back,” Carr said. “We live in a selfish world and we’ve asked our team to be unselfish. And our kids have done a pretty good job of buying in to that.”

The selflessness has helped the Edgewood team to suffer only four losses since the start of the 2008 season. The Wildcats are 88-4 over that span and when Edgewood takes the field at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy Friday, it will seek its fifth consecutive state title and 58th straight win.

Landon Houlditch hauls in a touchdown pass against Springwood.

Landon Houlditch hauls in a touchdown pass against Springwood.

This time, Carr’s Wildcats will line up across from a Marengo Academy squad in the midst of its own impressive streak. The Longhorns are 10-1 on the season and 23-1 dating back to the beginning of the 2013 campaign.

The lone loss in that stretch came in the season opener at Bessemer when the Longhorns took to the field without playmaking junior Hayden Huckabee and soon lost defensive force Cason Cook. A turnover-plagued Marengo squad limped to a 30-13 loss that night but has gone on to surrender just 56 points total since that time.

“Our boys won’t be intimidated. I know that,” Marengo coach Robby James said of the task that awaits his team. “They’ve got so many weapons. They spread you out. You’ve got guys on the outside that can run and run the kind of routes they run. It’s not like there’s one guy you’ve got to stop. Their whole skilled force is as good as you’ll see in the AISA.”

That set of skill players includes that kind of talent rarely seen in the AISA and is headlined by a Pensacola, Fla. transfer at quarterback in Ryan Bottoms. A pure pocket passer, Bottoms had thrown 30 touchdowns against just one interception going into the semifinals against Wilcox.

“He’s got the big arm and you’ve got those two backs sitting back there by him that are so good,” James said.

That tailback tandem is made up of a Tallassee transfer and former All-State player in Herman McKenzie, who boasts an offer from Oregon State among other places. He is joined in the backfield by the dynamic capabilities of Josh Crawford, a former All-State performer and a Vanderbilt commit.

“They run a lot of wide plays, jet sweep type stuff,” James said. “The stat that is off the wall is that last week was their 11th game and that’s the first time they’ve punted.”

That offensive collection has helped Edgewood hang 696 points on opposing teams this season. But, perhaps even more impressive is the Edgewood defense that has given up only 65 points all year long.

Hayden Huckabee deflects the arm of a would-be tackler on touchdown run against Jackson Academy.

Hayden Huckabee deflects the arm of a would-be tackler on touchdown run against Jackson Academy.

“They play excellent defense,” James said. “They line up in man coverage out there and they can cover you like a blanket.”

Carr expects his defense to be tested fully Friday when his team faces Marengo for the first time in the history of two of the AISA’s most storied programs.

“If you can get about 13 guys instead of 11 over there on defense, it might help. We have to play really sound, really good technique on defense,” Carr said. “Their offensive line does a really good job. Their fullback does about as good of a job going north and south as anybody we’ve seen. And, of course, the Huckabee kid is a real special talent.”

That special talent that concerns Carr is junior back Hayden Huckabee, who has amassed 1,024 yards and 21 touchdowns this season on only 58 carries.

“I think they’re very well-coached, disciplined. They do things the right way. Coach James has been around a number of years,” Carr said. “Coach (Webb) Tutt does a good job with their defense, disguising their coverages. I was really impressed with their linebackers and the way they get down hill.”

Ralph Langley (2) runs free as Carson Huckabee (50) looks to block against Springwood.

Ralph Langley (2) runs free as Carson Huckabee (50) looks to block against Springwood.

As the noon kickoff time nears, James knows his team’s best bet Friday is to play defense with its offense and utilize the Wing-T attack to the fullest of its potential.

“Keeping the ball,” James said of the key to stopping Edgewood. “No turnovers, try to keep the clock running and make first downs. They’re going to score some. You get the chance to get down there, you better score.”

The AISA, Class AA state championship game is set to kick at noon Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cason Cook (3) and Carson Huckabee (50) bring down a Clarke Prep ball carrier.

Cason Cook (3) and Carson Huckabee (50) bring down a Clarke Prep ball carrier.