Patriots use second half to come from behind, beat McKenzie

11-7-15 -- Linden QB Christopher Robinson (3) runs the ball in Friday's game against McKenzie. Linden came from behind to win, 38-28. (WAW | Stewart Gwin)

11-7-15 — Linden QB Christopher Robinson (3) runs the ball in Friday’s game against McKenzie. Linden came from behind to win, 38-28. (WAW | Stewart Gwin)

LINDEN—The Linden Patriots put together a second half rally to come from behind and send the McKenzie Tigers packing Friday night in the first round of AHSAA playoffs in Linden, Ala.

“I don’t like that kind of football,” Patriot head coach Andro Williams said of his team’s lackluster first half.

“We played sloppy, our intensity wasn’t what it needed to be, and our focus wasn’t where it needed to be, but we got the win,” said Williams.

McKenzie went up by eight in the first quarter and went on to lead the majority of the game, but the third quarter saw the Patriots outlast the tired Tiger team.

At the half, McKenzie led Linden 16-13.

McKenzie opened the second half and used half of the quarter to drive down to the Patriots 33-yard line, where McKenzie’s JarMarrie Womack fumbled and Linden recovered. Linden put together an impressive and time-consuming drive to get down to the 3-yard line, where Charles Blackmon crossed the goal line, giving his Patriot team the lead—their first of the night— with a score of 19-16.

McKenzie was quick to answer when Robert Shufford took the next play from scrimmage 52 yards, allowing the Tigers to reclaim the lead a mere 21 seconds after the Patriots took control. With 0:33 remaining in the third, McKenzie led 22-19.

As the third period expired, the Patriots hit the gas and never looked back. Dequan Charleston reeled in a 23-yard pass from Christopher Robinson that was good for six. With a failed PAT attempt, Linden led 25-22.

With 7:39 to go in the game, Labrandon Williams took it in from 26 yards out. A successful PAT put extended Linden’s lead to 32-22.

McKenzie went four-and-out at their own 25, allowing Linden excellent field position for a Robinson pass to Charleston, making it 38-22.

On the next possession, the Tigers appeared to be pinned back deep after the Patriots managed a sack 15 yards behind the original line of scrimmage, but Shufford again displayed his running abilities as he hauled it 95 yards on a second and 25 play. The two-point conversion failed and McKenzie brought it back to a 10-point game, 38-28, with 4:32 to play.

In their next to last possession of the game, the Patriots had a scare as Labrandon Williams lost a fumble at the McKenzie 40-yard line. On the following play, Linden’s Charles Blackmon took the ball back as he intercepted a pass from McKenzie’s William Brown. That would be all the Patriots needed as they ran the remaining 1:20 off the clock, sealing the 38-28 victory and moving on to round two.

Blackmon led the Patriots on the ground with 15 touches for 57 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Charleston had 115 yards receiving with two touchdowns, and Robinson went 8 of 12 for 129 yards and three touchdowns.

Linden put together a total of 469 yards of offense on the night, most of which came late in the game, while McKenzie had 279 yards. Linden had 21 first downs to McKenzie’s four.

“McKenzie came in and expected to win. They’re a great team and they played their hearts out,” said Andro Williams. “But we can’t come out here and not be focused like we did tonight. I’m proud of our guys for fighting through and getting the win, but we’ve got to get better.”

Linden will travel to Notasulga next week for the second round of playoffs.