By HARRISON TARR
FOR THE OBSERVER
When the Loachapoka Indians took the field at home on Friday night to take on visiting Autaugaville, head coach Reco Newton’s squad found itself in the thick of the AHSAA playoff conversation.
With just two blemishes on its record, Loachapoka controls its own destiny. After posting a 26-14 victory over the Eagles, the Indians’ playoff dreams are seemingly as alive as ever.
Although the final scoreboard showed a double-digit victory in favor of the hometown Indians, their opponents did not go down without a fight. After what appeared to be a developing defensive slugfest in the early going, the Eagles marched their way down the field and punched the ball across the goal line via a 3-yard rush, surging themselves off to a 8-0 lead.
“They came out and scored first,” Newton said. “This year’s team right here has been put in that position before. So they were ready. They know just settle down and do what they do on offense.”
The Eagles may have been the first on the board but — from that point on — the Loachapoka offense dictated the pace of the contest. Freshman quarterback Quinjavis Nelms led his squad down the field to round out the first quarter, ending the lengthy Indian drive with a 24-yard touchdown strike to senior wideout Kam Willis.
Following a failed two-point attempt, Loachapoka trailed Autaugaville by a score of 6-8 entering the halftime intermission where the Indian’s head coach expressed his confidence to his guys.
“As long as our offense is on the field, we always have a chance,” Newton said. “We have explosive players out there at receiver, our quarterback is a ninth grader but he’s doing a very good job for us.”
Newton’s assurance to his team proved fruitful instantly as his squad entered the final half of regulation; the Indians marched their way down the field on the opening drive of the third quarter, finding paydirt on a 3-yard touchdown run with the ball in the hands of senior athlete Jacorious Hart.
“When we come out in the second half we always want to catch momentum,” Newton said. “The last couple of games, we’ve come out flat. So all we’ve talked about this week is about finishing.”
Palmer and the rest of the Loachapoka offense were not done. Following a strong display from the stingy Indian defense, Newton’s squad once again marched its way to the Eagle end zone on a drive that was highlighted by a designed double-pass and a 17-yard rushing touchdown from senior running back Nickalus Farrow.
Newton claims that — despite the 20-yard pickup — the double-pass didn’t actually go according to plan.
“Actually it didn’t run like it was drawn up,” Newton said. “But it wound up working anyway … we have a lot of talented kids that can do a lot of stuff for us.”
When the whistles blew signaling the third quarter’s conclusion, Newton’s squad led its opponents 20-8.
As previously mentioned, the Eagles were not going down without a fight. Autaugaville steadily moved its way down the field in the early fourth quarter before eventually finding a hole in the Indian defense and scoring a 49-yard touchdown on the ground, cutting the deficit to just six following a missed point-after-try.
The Indians’’ head coach then reverted back to the theme of the week: closing out opponents.
“That’s all we talked about all week,” Newton said. “Being able to finish a football game.”
While Autaugaville was concentrating on pulling off a late-game miracle, the Indian offense had other plans. Just when everyone in the stadium anticipated a long, clock-chewing drive, Farrow found the edge, picked up blockers and took the rock 88 yards to the end zone on the ground, effectively pushing the contest out of reach at 26-14.
“With Nick Farrow out there you can score at any time,” Newton said.
With last week’s win in the rear view and the playoffs on the horizon, Newton’s squad now turns its attention to this week’s opponent: 1-8 Barbour County. Kickoff between the Indians and the Jaguars is set for 7 p.m. CST in Loachapoka, Alabama.