E.A. Sports Today

Making the big play

Underdog Alexandria scores with 1:10 left, then picks off a pass to seal a tight 21-14 victory over Jacksonville.

Ronnie Royal sprints into the end zone with Alexandria’s go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. On the cover, the Valley Cubs celebrate. (Photos by Greg Warren)

By East Alabama Sports Today
All preseason Alexandria coach Todd Ginn kept telling his players to not pay attention to what everyone around them was saying and just play their game.
There weren’t many who gave the Valley Cubs a chance in their rivalry against Jacksonville Friday night, but the players blocked out all the noise and got their season off to a rousing start.
Eighth-grade running back Ronnie Royal scored on a 22-yard run with 1:10 left to break a tie and Nate McCallum killed any chance of the home team answering back with an interception on the ensuing drive, lifting the underdog Cubs over Jacksonville 21-14 Friday night.
“I’ve got 40 texts in my phone from all these people so excited about the win,” Ginn said. “The reason why they are is because nobody really gave us a chance, to be honest. Everybody thought Jacksonville with their tailback and their defense … all the focus was on them. I love that situation because we were allowed to kind of just stay in the backyard and do our thing.”
The loss snapped Jacksonville’s 18-game regular-season winning streak.
The Valley Cubs came into the season with three quarterbacks and planned to run three different offensive scheme in the first quarter Friday to see what would stick. That plan devolved quickly and they wound up staying with Royal and McCallum – a pair of running backs – at quarterback most of the night and playing it like the Alexandria teams back in the days Ginn’s father coached.
By rights the Cubs probably should’ve been ahead by a touchdown at halftime, but they fumbled inside the 10 midway through the second quarter. Meanwhile, their defense was doing a masterful job on Jacksonville running back Ron Wiggins, holding him to 2 net yards rushing in the half (and 69 for the game).
“We told them you can listen to what you want to listen to,” Ginn said. “(The outside talk) was pretty much they (Jacksonville) were going to win and they should win because everybody else thinks they’re going to win. We’ll just do our thing and at halftime lets be in the game. I told them at halftime we’re right where we want to be. It’s 0-0. We changed this to a half game now.”
After the scoreless first half the teams matched touchdowns in the third quarter and early fourth. It stayed that way until the Cubs first defense got a stop and forced Jacksonville to punt with 5:59 to play. They took over at their own 42 and Royal put them on top of the third time in the game with his run.
The Valley Cubs scored with a little more than a minute left to take the lead in last year’s game only to have the Golden Eagles score the winning touchdown with 37 seconds left. McCallum made sure that wasn’t going to happen again, sealing this one with his interception with 42 seconds to go.
“We learned from last year,” Ginn said. “We talked about that. We said finish the game. What I saw tonight was our team we showed up. When we mattered, we made big, big plays.”
Alexandria 21, Jacksonville 14
Alexandria       0  0 14  7  — 21
Jacksonville     0  0   7  7  —  14
A – Grady Trantham 11 run (Grayson Forrest kick), 10:45 3Q
J – Jaeden Barksdale 15 pass from Luke Jackson (Mason Terrell kick), 7:34 3Q
A – Nate McCallum 2 run (Grayson Forrest kick), 1:34 3Q
J – Ron Wiggins 1 run (Mason Terrell kick), 11:27 4Q
A – Ronnie Royal 22 run (Grayson Forrest kick), 1:10 4Q

Nate McCallum (2) brings in the interception that seals Alexandria’s victory. (Photo by Greg Warren)

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