Longhorns get Clarke Prep rematch in AISA semis

Josh Holifield cuts back against a Springwood defender.

Josh Holifield cuts back against a Springwood defender.

The Marengo Academy Longhorns have won nine straight games since falling 30-13 in a season-opening visit to Bessemer Academy. Robby James’ Longhorns started the current win streak at home one week later when they blew out Clarke Prep 41-0. Since that time, Marengo has allowed only 35 points and pitched four shutouts as it has barreled toward its goal of a return visit to Troy and another sniff of an AISA football state championship.

Clarke Prep, conversely, has begun to find greater success in its own right, working its way to a 6-4 record. The Gators punched their ticket to the semifinals with a 31-29 win over Lakeside last week.

“I looked at them on the film. They’re not doing anything different, they’re just doing it better. They’ve improved a lot,” James said of the Gators. “Their running back, when we played them before, he was a little bit gimpy. He’s running the ball better.”

While James will be in search of career win No. 298 in Friday’s semifinal game, Clarke Prep coach Billy Hamilton will roll in to Linden hoping to find the 215th win of his illustrious career. That tandem has achieved more than 500 wins with very similar Wing-T offenses and suffocating defenses.

“They’re a big, physical team that plays physical football,” James said. “It’ll be a good football game with two teams that are similar in what they do.”

While CP pulled a narrow win in the playoff opener, Marengo steamrolled visiting Springwood 62-0.

“I think just that it’s easy to look ahead. I was just proud of the way they came out and played. The only time we struggled was when we had to go for it twice on fourth down. We played physical and hard and excited,” James said. “I never liked to beat somebody by that much. I don’t know if that’s the most points I’ve ever scored. You try to get all you can get in the first half and then play your younger guys the second half.”

Marengo and Clarke Prep are set to kick off Friday at 7 p.m. in Linden.