After the Pisgah football team fell in the de facto Class 2A Region 7 championship game to Fyffe back in Week 8, the Eagles’ goal from the second the scoreboard clock hit all zeros became clear.
“The goal was to play them again,” said Pisgah coach Luke Pruitt. “We knew (Fyffe) was going to be there (in the state semifinals), and we told (our players) in the locker room that we’ve seen the standard, seen the team to beat in the North, and if we do what we’re supposed to, we’ll get another shot at them.”
No. 8-ranked Pisgah (11-2) gets another shot to try to slay the giant this week, facing top-ranked Fyffe (13-0) in a Class 2A state semifinal matchup Friday at Fyffe High School’s Paul Benefield Stadium.
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It’s the 33rd all-time meeting between the teams in a series Fyffe leads 17-14-1.
Friday’s game is also the second time the teams have met in the playoffs. Pisgah’s famed “Kings of Pain” team, coached by Pruitt’s father Dale, defeated Fyffe 30-0 in the opening round of the Class 2A playoffs in 1983.
After having not played one another for 17 years until their meeting on Oct. 14, Pisgah and Fyffe will now play for the second time in six weeks.
The Pisgah-Fyffe winner plays either No. 5 Highland Home or No. 6 B.B. Comer in the AHSAA Super 7 Championship’s Class 2A State Championship Game at Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium on Friday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m.
Pisgah is the first Jackson County team to reach the semifinal round of the AHSAA high school football playoffs since North Jackson in 2010.
It’s Pisgah’s third all-time state semifinal appearance. The Eagles defeated Geraldine in 2000 before losing to Clay County a week later in the Class 2A state finals. The Eagles’ other semifinal appearance was a 2002 loss to Lineville.
Meanwhile, Fyffe is making its eighth state semifinal appearance in the past 10 years. The Red Devils, who have won four Class 2A state championships and one 3A state title since 2014, have won six straight state semifinal games and are 56-19 all-time in the playoffs under head coach Paul Benefield, who has amassed 335 career wins (290 in 26 seasons at Fyffe) during his 31-year hall-of-fame coaching career.
The Red Devils enter Friday’s game averaging 47.8 points per game while allowing only 6.2, having outscored opponents 614-80 on the season. Fyffe posted wins over Geraldine 34-6, North Sand Mountain 49-0, Whitesburg Christian 49-6, Section 54-0, Plainview 56-13, Collinsville 61-0, Sand Rock 70-14, Pisgah 40-6, Ider 41-0 and Sylvania 35-14 before recording playoff wins over Red Bay 55-8, Winston County 35-6 and Tuscaloosa Academy 35-7. Fyffe has beaten two state semifinal teams this season (2A Pisgah and 3A Sylvania), two other quarterfinal teams (2A Tuscaloosa Academy in 2A and 3A Geraldine) and its overall opponents’ combined record is 92-68.
In the first matchup, Pisgah fell behind 14-0 before pulling within 14-6 midway through the second quarter — Pisgah became just the second team to score against the Red Devils’ starting defense — before the Red Devils scored again and then cashed in a Pisgah turnover near the goal line to lead 27-6 at halftime. After a scoreless third quarter, the Red Devils tacked on two scores in the fourth quarter to cap the victory. Fyffe’s defense held Pisgah to 147 total yards and just 42 rushing yards.
Meanwhile, Fyffe’s standout running back duo of sophomore Logan Anderson and senior Brodie Hicks had a big performance against the Eagles, with Anderson rushing for 214 yards and five touchdowns while Hicks ran for 116 yards and one score. For the season, Anderson has rushed for 1,757 yards and 31 touchdowns on 143 carries while Hicks has 1,075 yards and 16 touchdowns on 119 carries.
“There’s not a lot that’s hidden (with Fyffe),” Pruitt said. “They’re excellent in what they do. It’s a line of scrimmage game. We’ve got to get some more defensive stops and we’ve got to punch it in when we get an opportunity too. What they do offensively limits possessions, so when we’re down there (in scoring position) we’ve got to capitalize.”
The Eagles’ offensive leaders are junior quarterback Mason Holcomb with 1,919 yards passing (96-of-17) and 22 touchdowns, sophomore running back Legion McCrary with 1,464 yards and 20 touchdowns on 183 carries, and receivers sophomore Luke Gilbert (36 catches, 837 yards and 13 touchdowns) and junior Jakob Kirby (38 catches, 663 yards, eight touchdowns). Pisgah enters the game averaging 32.8 points per outing.
Pisgah enters the rematch healthier than it was against the Red Devils in Week 8 when it played without two starters, including Holcomb, and several reserves that play a lot on defense.
“We had to move a lot of guys around then, so having (Holcomb) back, which moves (Gilbert) back to the outside (at receiver), and more depth on defense is big for us,” Pruitt said.
The Eagles have won five straight games since that Fyffe loss and their playoff wins over Hatton 40-14, Southeastern 48-28 and No. 4 Aliceville 26-22 all included “winning in practice” leading up to game.
“Our kids have bought into that we have to have win on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to have a chance to win on Friday,” Pruitt said. “They’re excited about playing in the state semifinals, so I know they’re going to (prepare well) this week.”