AISA champions: Crenshaw, Chambers, Pike Liberal Arts reign supreme

Chambers Academy coach Jason Allen hoists the championship trophy after the Rebels knocked off Escambia Academy on Friday.

CLASS AAA: Pike Liberal Arts School 38, Glenwood School 21

Former Montgomery high school star Henry Ruggs III spent many nights blazing a trail on the turf of Cramton Bowl.

On Friday, Pike Liberal Arts senior quarterback Mayes White did his own impression of the former Alabama-star-turned Las Vegas Raider with a touchdown run of 95 yards to break a 21-21 tie in the third quarter and ignite the Patriots for a 38-21 victory over previously unbeaten Glenwood for the 2020 AISA Class AAA state championship.

White, a baseball prospect pledged to attend Florida State next fall, broke a see-saw battle with his electric run that stunned the Gators, giving the Pats the momentum they would not relinquish. The run came after Glenwood’s Jackson Griner pinned the Patriots deep in their own territory with a 44-yard punt.

On second-and-10 and just under a minute left in the quarter, the senior signal caller cut left, slipped the grasp of two tacklers and outraced the Glenwood defense on the way to the score.

Scott Renfroe tacked on the extra point and Pike Liberal would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the night.

The Patriots added a second touchdown by White and a Renfroe 17-yard field goal in the final period to cap their first state title in football since 2009 and their third overall.

The two teams see-sawed the lead in the first half with Glenwood opening the scoring on a Griner pass to Ron Beachamp for 5 yards.

Pike Liberal equaled the score with an interception by Jay Taylor who raced to the end zone from 41 yards out with 3:43 left in the opening period.

Glenwood took the lead before the end of the period on Griner’s second touchdown pass to Beachamp for 60 yards. Garrett Hall’s extra point made it 14-7 Glenwood with 1:34 left still in the first.

Pike Liberal tied the score with White’s first touchdown of the night on a 13-yard run. But Kye Robichaux answered for the Gators with an 18-yard run with just under six minutes left in the half for a 21-14 lead.

Before the half ended, White led the Patriots (10-2) to a tying score on an 80-yard drive culminating with a 13-yard pass to Elijah Caldwell with three minutes left.

Glenwood suffered three turnovers in the second half, two of which led to Pike Liberal scores.

White finished with 156 yards passing on 14-of-25 attempts and 184 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Jay Taylor had four receptions for 78 yards.

Griner led Glenwood (10-1) with 127 yards rushing and 95 yards passing on 6-of-12 attempts.

The win for Pike Liberal avenged a 26-7 loss to the Gators late in the season.

--Graham Dunn

CLASS AA: Chambers Academy 36, Escambia Academy 34

Chambers Academy was clinging to a 30-27 lead with five minutes left and facing fourth down.

The Rebels called for a fake punt and TY Trammell ran 11 yards for the first down, then 28 yards to the end zone a few plays later to help Chambers edge Escambia Academy 36-34 in the Alabama Independent School Association’s Class AA state championship at Cramton Bowl on Friday night.

“We saw that was going to be there all night,” Chambers coach Jason Allen said. “We almost ran it earlier in the game, but it was in a bad situation. That was a gutsy call, but you’ve got to make gutsy calls to win championships.”

Chambers won a state title for the second time in three years, but its first as a AA team after years as a Class A program.

“Unbelievable,” Allen said. “This is my alma mater, this is where my heart is. I’ve coached these boys since they were puppies and I’ve watched them bleed and sweat and grow up to become men. There ain’t nothing better as a football coach to watch them become men and to play the way we did tonight. We weren’t going to be denied.”

The game was a track meet between two high-octane offenses, with Escambia (10-2) countering Chambers’ touchdown with a quick strike of their own, scoring on Bubba Nettles’ 1-yard plunge with 38 seconds left.

Braxton Yerta fell on Escambia’s ensuing onside kick to allow the Rebels to escape with the win.

Escambia had three touchdowns negated by penalties in the second quarter, including two on the same drive when a penalty trailing the play wiped out Nettles’ 52-yard scoring reception and Landon Sims’ 25-yard pass on fourth down to Tyler Ray Cloud was four yards past the line of scrimmage, resulting in a turnover.

Moments later, after Allen threw 20 yards to Trammell for a 22-14 lead, Sims outran Trammell to the end zone on an 85-yard keeper, only to have the play wiped out by an illegal block penalty.

The momentum would swing a little in the third quarter when Jordan Benbrook’s 43-yard run to the end zone was negated by a holding penalty, leading to Chambers’ first punt. On the next play, Nettles ran 81 yards to the end zone to cut the Rebels’ lead to 22-20.

Undaunted, Chambers (12-1) marched 73 yards to the end zone, using a 31-yard pass from Payton Allen to tailback Jordan Benbrook on fourth and nine to set up Benbrook’s 3-yard plunge to regain control.

The two teams had only met once before – a 42-6 win by Escambia in the first round of the 1999 playoffs – but both coaches were familiar with their opponent because of Chambers’ role as a perennial title contender in Class A in the past and the Cougars’ nine trips to the AA playoffs, including six trips to the finals in the past seven years, since Hugh Fountain’s arrival at the school in 2012.

“He’s an awesome coach,” Allen said. “They played a great game. They have a great team. We were just a little bit better tonight.”

--Tim Gayle

CLASS A: Crenshaw Christian Academy 40, Abbeville Christian Academy 20

Crenshaw Christian Academy found itself trailing region rival Abbeville Christian Academy at halftime of the Alabama Independent School Association Class A championship game, but the Cougars never wavered.

The Cougars scored two quick touchdowns in the third quarter, added another late in the quarter and pulled away for a 40-20 win over Abbeville Christian on Friday afternoon at Cramton Bowl for the program’s fourth state title and first since 1997.

“We’ve been behind in several games this year,” Crenshaw Christian coach Wayne Grant said, “but we just keep plugging away, plugging away and eventually we find a way to win. Some people say I’m probably the best halftime coach they’ve ever seen because I go in behind and come out winning. The biggest thing is to try to keep them focused on what you did to get here and remember the game plan. Just because a couple of things don’t go right for you, don’t deviate from the game plan and keep doing what you do best.”

Abbeville (10-3) took an early lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by Brandon Early and took a 14-6 advantage into the locker room at the half after capping an eight-minute drive with an 8-yard pass from Jackson Blalock to Early.

But Crenshaw (10-3) was just warming up. Abbeville fumbled on its initial possession of the third quarter and Austin Archie’s fumble recovery at the Abbeville 24 set up a quick touchdown drive.

Christian Holloway’s 15-yard touchdown reception pulled the Cougars within two points and moments later Crenshaw took the lead when Blalock’s attempted pitchout was scooped up and returned 49 yards for a touchdown by Tymon Knighten.

“That was a huge play in the ballgame,” Grant said. “It turned it around. I’m very proud for him. That was a big moment for him.”

Abbeville would regain a brief 20-19 lead on a 55-yard slant pass from Ryan Ledford to Dre Cobb, but the rest of the afternoon belonged to the Cougars. In the final 18 minutes of the game, Abbeville would manage just 40 yards and three first downs while Crenshaw’s John David Taylor, who finished with 180 yards on 17 carries, scored on runs of 8 and 70 yards.

For Crenshaw, it was a fabulous finish for a group of seniors that reached the finals in 2018 and the semifinals in 2019. It was Grant’s sixth state championship after winning five at Pike County High, including three in a four-year span in the mid-2000s.

--Tim Gayle