Nov. 26, 2021.

Every Catholic player knows what happened on that day. As Alex Kohn’s 37-yard field goal sailed through the uprights to give Montgomery Academy a stunning 10-7 semifinal playoff win, Catholic players were left to ponder what might have been and to think about next year.

“We’ve been thinking about that day since the Saturday after we lost,” Catholic receiver Luke Harkless said. “We bring it up every day. We don’t want to go out like that again. We put up some pictures … about us crying on the field. We’re not trying to feel like that again.”

It was a trying offseason for a team that reached the Super 7 in 2020 and could only think of what might have been in 2021.

“That was our motivation,” Catholic linebacker Jaden Jones said. “Our first day back, Coach ‘J’ gave us white T-shirts. All of us had white T-shirts and gray shorts and he treated us like scrubs.”

Kirk Johnson’s message was simple but powerful.

“I just told them in the most important game we figured out how to play for ourselves instead of playing for everybody,” the Catholic coach said. “So in the offseason no one was allowed to wear any Catholic gear. It was white tees. I spent about $120 of my own money, bought everybody a white tee and you had to have that same dingy white tee every day.

“I told them if you can learn to come together in these white tees, you can come together with some Catholic blue and black on.”

The message was received by the players, who haven’t lost to a region opponent -- or anybody, for that matter -- since the semifinal stunner. Catholic’s senior class has compiled a 50-5 record over the last four years, but knows anything short of a trip to the Super 7 will be a disappointment.

Standing in the way is an Andalusia team that has only lost one game all year -- a 45-23 setback on Oct. 21 to Catholic.

“It’s the same mindset we’ve had all year, taking one game at a time,” Harkless said. “Play our football, we’re unbeaten. We believe we can’t be beat if we just play our football, everybody doing their role on offense and defense, doing their job. I think it’ll be the same outcome it was last time.”

Catholic (13-0) and Andalusia (12-1) will meet in a rematch on Friday at Cramton Bowl. The game was moved from Catholic’s field to accommodate what is expected to be a larger crowd.

“We talked about it a couple of weeks ago, that if we had the opportunity, just a big venue somewhere where a lot of people can come,” Johnson said. “When you started looking at the (playoff) brackets, how it might unfold, you were thinking this might be an option.”

The battle between the Knights and Bulldogs will be one of seven playoff rematches between region rivals, not counting the two that have already taken place in Class 7A. There is one region matchup in each class (and two in 4A), creating a scenario where a good team will have to beat another good team for the second time this season.

“It doesn’t matter,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, if you’re going to be the team you say you are, if you’ve got to play the same team twice, you’ve got to play the same team twice. God doesn’t make mistakes. We’ve prepped for this, we’ve prayed for this.”

In the initial meeting between the pair, Catholic took a 24-23 halftime lead despite allowing Jamarion Burnett and Dorian Crittenden to combine for 222 rushing yards on 26 carries. In the second half, Catholic’s defense responded by holding the Bulldogs to two first downs and 47 total yards over four possessions and a 22-minute span.

That was despite losing left tackle Ariyn Gilbert, quarterback Caleb McCreary and defensive back LJ Green to injuries.

Into that void stepped Harkless, who ran out of Wildcat in McCreary’s place and took Green’s place on defense.

“Their defense was probably the second-most physical defense we’ve played all year besides Handley,” Harkless said. “They’re very physical. We’ve got the same mentality, the same mindset. Play our game, we’ll win.”

Jones, who led the Knights with 10 tackles, said a strategy move to put KJ Washington on Andalusia’s best offensive lineman helped slow the Bulldog offense.

“They came out on fire,” Jones said. “We weren’t really clicking at first. We rotated some people in, changed a few things and got back to Catholic football.”

But while everyone connected with Catholic expects the same results, no one expects the same journey. Certainly, Andalusia will change a few things on both sides of the ball in an effort to force a different outcome.

“It’s a chess match in itself,” Johnson said, “because you don’t know what they’re going to change and you have to adjust some things, too. Do they know what adjustments you’re going to make? So that first half is going to be a lot of feeling each other out, but at the end of the day you’re going to do what you do.”

McCreary completed 14 of 20 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season meeting, with some of that coming on six passes to tailback Jeremiah Cobb that accounted for 187 yards and a touchdown.

“Their defensive coordinator does a great job mixing it up, but I feel like we’ve just got to make plays,” McCreary said. “That’s the name of the game. As long as we trust our coaches and the plays they’ve drawn up for us and play hard, I feel like that’s all it comes down to.”

Cobb had twice as many receiving yards as rushing yards (84) but, like McCreary, is ready for whatever strategy is used in the rematch.

“Just play as a team,” he said. “Everybody come together and do their assignment when the play is called. Execute every play, play at 100 percent and I think we’ll be able to pull it off again.”

Andalusia, like Catholic, knows a little about heartbreaking semifinal rematches, losing to region rival Pike Road last year in the 5A semifinals, their fifth semifinal loss in the last six seasons. Catholic players, like Andalusia, don’t want to come this far only to end the season a game short of the goal as they did a year ago.

“Ever since the time ran out, it’s been ‘we’re going to be back,’” McCreary said. “We don’t want to come back to this point and be empty-handed. We just don’t want to feel like that any more, so we’re not going to take anybody lightly.”