Auburn scrapes by Daphne; Advances to Semifinals

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By Wil Crews
sportscrews@opelikaobserver.com

The Auburn High defense was dominant and a diving fourth-quarter interception led to the would be game-winning score in Auburn’s 13–7 quarterfinal playoff win over the Daphne Trojans.

Daphne had the ball at their own 15-yard line and Auburn led 7–0 with just over eight minutes left in the game. To that point, both teams had struggled to get anything going on offense. From the first whistle, the Auburn High pass rush launched their blitzkrieg attack against the Trojan offense. Similarly, Daphne stacked the box when they were on defense, daring the Auburn offense to beat them through the air. There was a feeling in Duck-Samford Stadium that the next score would swing the game.

The Daphne quarterback dropped back on second down — was put under immense pressure — and floated a pass about 20 yards towards his receiver near the sideline. Auburn High defensive back Noah Warren was giving chase. The senior made a beeline to the Trojan receiver and undercut the pass, left his feet, tipped the ball in the air and hauled in the highlight reel diving interception on the Daphne 31-yard line.

On the ensuing possession, already in scoring position, Auburn looked like they had scored on a 29-yard pass from Caldwell to receiver Bryson Clague. However, the play was called back because of an illegal shift. The flag took the life out of the touchdown-deprived fans at the time. It felt like a demoralizing drive killer for an Auburn offense that had struggled all night. However, two plays later, Caldwell found Zae Ray on a slant that came wide open and the receiver took it all the way to the one-yard line. Caldwell fell into the end zone on a QB sneak on the next play. The PAT was no good, but Auburn had a comfortable 13–0 lead with 6:20 left in the fourth.

Things became a little less comfortable when Daphne got into scoring position thanks to some timely pass plays and questionable penalties on Auburn. The Trojan QB finally got Daphne on the board with a three-yard touchdown run with 2:52 left in the game.

Down one score, Daphne attempted an onside kick but Auburn High recovered. The Tigers then handed the ball off for a couple first downs, allowing Caldwell to kneel and run out the clock.

Auburn had several chances to extend their lead throughout the first three quarters but negative plays and missed opportunities defined most of the night. Auburn fumbled on their promising opening drive of the game and missed a chip-shot field goal late in the first quarter. The Tigers first score came with 2:23 before the half. After attempting and failing a fake field goal from the nine-yard line, the Tigers were given a fresh set of downs after a Daphne pass interference call. The next play gave Auburn a 7-0 lead when running back Amaury Hutchinson got into the end zone on a four-yard touchdown run.

The two scores proved to be enough for the staunch Auburn defense who effectively punched the Tigers ticket to the state semifinals. Warren’s play was the highlight of the night for the Auburn defense that held Daphne to just 46 yards and sacked the Trojan QB seven times.

The win means Auburn will head to the ASHAA Class 7A semifinals for the second straight year. A rematch of last year’s semifinals against Central Phenix City is on the cards. Auburn will hope to reverse the fortunes of last year’s semifinal game which ended 38–0 in Central’s favor. For a spot in the state championship, the game is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at Duck Stanford Stadium.

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