Something must give in Marengo, Restoration state final

Josh Holified tries to break the tackle of an Abbeville defender.

Josh Holified tries to break the tackle of an Abbeville defender.

LINDEN — There is an old paradox about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. The AISA’s version of that conundrum will be answered Friday in Troy when Marengo Academy meets Restoration Academy in the association’s Class A state championship game.

Restoration opened its year with a 7-6 loss to Bessemer Academy, which will be in the Class AAA title game in Troy just a few hours later. Since that setback, the Bulldogs have won 12 in a row and have outscored opponents 511-50.

The narrowest margin of victory for the Bulldogs in 2013 came against Lakeside last week when Restoration downed the Chiefs 32-10. That game also marked only the second time all season a team has scored double-digit points on the Bulldogs.

“They’re pretty much a four front. Big guys. Strong. They come after you. It’s a 4-3 looking scheme. They bring a lot of pressure off the corners as well,” Marengo Academy coach Robby James said of the Restoration defensive approach.

The point-scoring attack of the Bulldogs features the quarterbacking talents of Kha’Darius Davis as well as the punishing backfield duo of Courtney Wilibanks and Rasheed Turner, a tandem that combined for 289 yards rushing in last week’s win over Lakeside.

“Offensively, they’re kind of a spread team but they run the ball more than throw,” James said. “They line up in a pistol look some and then just a one back with slots. They run a lot of misdirection, a lot of jet sweeps and then play-action you off of that. The quarterback is really good. He’s the kind of runner that, they’ll do a lot of zone stuff where they’re riding it and then he’ll pick a gap and go. He’s good at that. They’re a very good team.”

Ralph Langley breaks away for a touchdown against Chambers Academy.

Ralph Langley breaks away for a touchdown against Chambers Academy.

But the Bulldogs’ proverbial unstoppable force is readying to run headlong into an apparently immovable object in the form of Marengo Academy.

The Longhorns have done plenty of damage in their own right this season, outscoring opponents 536-88 en route to a 12-0 campaign that has yet to see MA trail in a game.

Dominant in their own right, the Longhorns’ closest margin of victory came Sept. 27 when they downed Wilcox 28-6.

Marengo enters the state finals fresh off a 44-13 win over Abbeville last week.

“Everybody says ‘Hey you played well.’ But, really, inside we didn’t play that well. We played hard, but we made a lot of mistakes. We put the ball on the ground a couple times. We don’t normally do that,” James said. “We had some penalties called that we shouldn’t have had. There’s a lot of things we can clean up and we’re going to have to play much better to try to beat this team that we’re playing this week.”

The teams have met only once before, that contest came just over a year ago when Restoration bested Marengo 32-13 in the semifinals on the way to a state championship victory.

“I think probably the biggest thing is experience,” James said of the only measurable difference between the 2013 Restoration team and the one that won the state title a season ago. “They lost one guy off their team. If you look at ours, it’s kind of the same way. I think we’ve improved a lot since last year, just growing. We’re a year older, a little bit bigger, stronger. They’re the same way. They’re a quality team. They’re very aggressive and have got a lot of skilled athletes that can run.”

Marengo Academy and Restoration Academy are scheduled to kick off Friday at noon in Troy at Veterans Memorial Stadium.