Corey Bolt shakes off a Marengo defender as he runs for yardage in the Rebels first round playoff game Friday night.
LINDEN – Whether or not it’s accurate, coaches, players and fans tend to gauge the skill of a team based on how they play common opponents. It’s a flawed system, but many times it provides at least some sort of estimate about how teams stack up against each other.
Chambers Academy didn’t have that luxury in the first round of the AISA 1A playoffs. Their opponent, No. 4 Marengo Academy, was viewed as one of the best in the state. They were undefeated and had won each game convincingly, but their level of competition wasn’t quite up to par.
Coach Jason Allen knew the Longhorns looked good on film, but he didn’t know just how good.
He and the Rebels found out how good they were on Friday night.
From the opening kickoff Marengo controlled the contest. The Longhorns were fast, aggressive and hit harder than perhaps any team CA had faced all season. Chambers didn’t underestimate their opponent; they simply just couldn’t keep up with them. And when it was over, the Rebels turnaround season ended with a 51-14 loss.
“Marengo was a very good team,” Allen said. “They were physical on both sides of the ball and really took it to us. They will contend for the state championship.
“I was proud that our guys hung in there for four quarters and continued to fight. We simply just got beat by a better team.”
On a cold night in west Alabama, it all happened fast. Marengo forced a turnover on downs on the Rebels first possession. Then moments later raced 40 yards for a touchdown for a 7-0 lead three minutes into the game.
Chambers punted on the ensuing possession, and the Longhorns promptly drove down the field. They found the endzone again with 4:20 left in the first quarter on a three-yard run to take a 13-0 lead after a failed extra point kick.
Chambers was forced into a fourth and 20 situation and again elected to punt on the next drive. Marengo then took a 19-0 lead on another short touchdown run with 1:06 left in the quarter.
A reeling CA squad then made their first big mistake of the game, fumbling the kickoff and giving the Longhorns excellent field position. Marengo committed a penalty on their first play of the drive but it didn’t matter as they raced for a 36-yard touchdown and a 26-0 lead with 50 seconds left in the first.
The Rebels finally found a little life on their ensuing possession. They marched down the field, spurred by a big fourth down run by Corey Bolt, to move into Longhorn territory. The drive would eventually stall and CA elected to kick a field goal. But sensing their dire situation, the Rebels went for the fake. Unfortunately a pass fell incomplete and Chambers stayed off the scoreboard.
Though the drive didn’t result in any points it did keep the ball out of Marengo’s hands for the better part of six minutes. When the Longhorns did get it back, though, they wasted little time. They increased their lead to 33-0 after a 47-yard touchdown run around left end.
Chambers was facing another three-and-out on their next drive, but again elected for a fake, this time on a punt. But like before, it failed, and Marengo took over in CA territory. With 54 seconds left in the first half, the Longhorns all but sealed the game with a four-yard touchdown run to take a 39-0 lead.
Marengo got the ball to open the second half, and they embarked on a methodical, time-consuming drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run. With 5:30 left in the third quarter, their lead was now 45-0.
To that point, CA had some success running the ball, but it wasn’t consistent and Bolt was taking a beating from the powerful Longhorns. So the Rebels decided to go to the air on their first possession of the second half.
It didn’t work out well. Quarterback Cord Dodgen tossed an interception on the first play and Marengo returned it 35 yards for a touchdown and a 51-0 lead with 3:53 left in the third.
But Allen was right, the Rebels never quit. They played the final quarter, facing an insurmountable deficit, with the same fervor they had played the first quarter.
With just over seven minutes left to play in the game, it finally paid off as Dodgen connected with Quadarius Tinsley for a 33-yard touchdown pass.
The duo connected one more time before the game ended, this time from 23 yards out.
“I am especially proud of our senior class and the leadership they showed this year,” Allen added. “They bought in completely to our program and were a joy to coach. They made Chambers football relevant again.
“I would like to thank all of the people that helped make our season a success. Hopefully, what was accomplished this season will pave the way for many good seasons ahead.”
*For full story see this week’s edition of The Sun.