E.A. Sports Today

Cubs reach third round

Alexandria uses ‘wildcub,’ defense to take down Pleasant Grove in 5A playoffs

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

For all that’s been made of Alexandria’s potent offense this season, it was the defense that played the big role in sending the Valley Cubs into the next round of the Class 5A playoffs Friday night.

It wasn’t that they held Pleasant Grove to an insanely low amount of yardage in their 36-14 win at Lou Scales Stadium, but they made what coach Frank Tucker called “some huge huge plays on fourth down that enabled us to win.”

Jamal Tucker and Cain Heath got together to break up a fourth-down pass in the end zone to keep the Spartans off the scoreboard in the first quarter. DeMarcus Swink and Heath blocked a field goal at the end of a penalty-marred second quarter to keep them from cutting into the Cubs’ lead. Chase Smitherman returned an interception — forced by Heath’s backside pressure — 75 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that sealed the victory.

“We’ve always been focused on our defense,” said Jamal Tucker, who also forced two fumbles. “We know talent and offense wins games, but when it comes down all to it, defense wins championships, and that’s what we’re trying to get our team to do — play together as a team.”

The Valley Cubs (10-1) now travel to Russellville (11-1) for the next round. They haven’t been to the third round since 2006, the last of four straight years to the state semifinals.

Of course, their offense wasn’t to be overlooked.

At this point in the season there’s usually not much a team can do somebody hasn’t already seen, but the Valley Cubs broke out the wildcat offense — “call it the WIldcub,” Frank Tucker said — and the first two direct snaps Jamal Tucker took went for touchdowns of 20 and 80 yards to put the Cubs up 14-0.

They ran it once in the Anniston game and it got stopped, but on this night it helped the Cubs racked up 362 yards of total offense, 341 of it on the ground. Keenan Woodruff rushed for 145 yards on 17 carries, Jamal Tucker had 116 yards on eight carries and Jacob Heathcock had 66 yards in the fourth quarter.

“We worked on it in practice; I never expected it in a game,” Jamal Tucker said. “Coach Tucker calls it some Mexican cornbread. He said we’d probably use it in a game when we needed to and it turned out real good.”

The Cubs even threw a pass in the game. Luke Tucker had the Cubs’ first completion in three games in the fourth quarter and it made the Spartans respect the pass so much Heathcock ran 29 yards on the next play for a touchdown that put the Cubs ahead 30-14.

“We needed it,” Frank Tucker said. “We’ve worked on it since Day One and we needed it tonight and fortunately the kids executed it. It’s no good if they don’t execute it.”

Alexandria 36, Pleasant Grove 14

Pleasant Grove 0 7 0 7 — 14
Alexandria 6 8 8 14 — 36

A – Jamal Tucker 20 run (kick failed), 9:09 1Q
A – Tucker 80 run (DeMarcus Swink pass from Luke Tucker), 11:45 2Q
P – Myles Mason 4 run (Cody Pausic kick), 5:36 2Q
A – Keenan Woodruff 65 run (J. Tucker run), 8:17 3Q
P – Brandon Simmons 55 run (Pausic kick), 11:47 4Q
A – Jacob Heathcock 29 run (Swink pass from L. Tucker), 7:50 4Q
A – Chase Smitherman 75 interception return (pass failed), 6:36 4Q

Team stats PG Alex
First downs 17 11
Rushes-yds 47-280 38-341
C-A-I 6-16-1 1-1-0
Passing yds 46 21
Fumbles-lost 5-1 1-1
Punts-avg 2-25.5 2-32.5
Penalties-yds 11-113 12-120

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