MUSCLE SHOALS — Muscle Shoals’ football players aren’t sure what else to say to anyone who still might doubt their legitimacy as state championship contenders.
Wrapping up the first undefeated season in school history, they feel like Thursday’s 38-6 win against Class 6A Bob Jones said it all.
“It makes a big statement,” Trojans senior Dee Liner said. “The other thing is we’ve got a big target on our back. We’ve got to keep working hard. But I think it answers every question that anybody could have.”
Liner spoke after the game for the first time since the preseason, and he did some talking with his play on the field. The standout defensive lineman totaled six tackles and one for loss, as the Trojans’ defensive starters allowed 129 yards and held the Patriots (6-3) scoreless.
Bob Jones didn’t manage a first down on three of its first four possessions. The other ended with an interception by Blake Logan at midfield.
Meanwhile, Class 5A No. 1 Muscle Shoals (10-0) made it look easy against the fourth-year 6A, Region 8 champs, scoring touchdowns on its first two drives.
After Levi Fell snuffed out Bob Jones’ fake-punt attempt on its first series at midfield, the Trojans marched 47 yards in seven plays, capped by Ryan Ware’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Jackson.
Jackson added two second-half scoring runs and finished with 109 yards on eight carries.
The Patriots went three-and-out on their second possession and Muscle Shoals needed seven plays to go 59 yards. Quarterback Ryan Ware accounted for 48, including a 5-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead.
Aided by Muscle Shoals’ pass interference and personal foul penalties, Bob Jones responded with a 10-play, 71-yard drive to the Trojans 7-yard line. But Muscle Shoals' defense clamped down on three straight plays inside the 10, and the Patriots missed a 22-yard field goal attempt on a low line drive that barely got off the ground.
Muscle Shoals came back to seize momentum with a nine-play, 57-yard drive that set up a 40-yard field by Logan at the halftime horn for a 17-0 lead.
“We were hoping we could punch it in to make it 14-7 to get back in the game,” Bob Jones coach Kevin Rose said. “Instead we don’t score and give up the field goal. That was a pivotal moment in the game.
“They’ve obviously got a good team. I wanted to see the speed and athleticism that Muscle Shoals has because it’s going to help us with our (playoff) opponent next week.”
Muscle Shoals’ Jamarcus Nance rushed for a game-high 118 yards on 20 carries but didn’t find the end zone.
Jackson scored his first on a 38-yarder, out-running the secondary down the sideline on an option pitch from Ware, for a 24-0 lead with 6:43 left in the third quarter.
The running back added a 17-yarder on fourth-and-3 for a 31-0 lead with 11 minutes to play.
Muscle Shoals’ defensive starters checked out after forcing a Bob Jones punt with 8:30 remaining. The Trojans backup running backs then got some work on an eight-play, 48-yard drive, capped by Martavius Mims’ 4-yard touchdown run.
The Patriots’ only score came against Trojans reserves and only after Kevin Carter ripped off a 42-yard run to the Muscle Shoals 7 on fourth-and-3 in the final minute. Two plays later, he scored on a 1-yard plunge, but a 2-point conversion failed.
Carter accounted for a team-high 73 of Bob Jones’ 180 yards rushing.
Bob Jones will host Gadsden City (5-4) in the first round of the 6A playoffs next week, while Muscle Shoals heads into next week’s home 5A opener against Boaz (6-3) with plenty of confidence.
“I think it makes a statement that we’re the real deal,” Ware said. “I think there are still people out there that question us. We’re going to have to play teams like this down the road. This just makes a statement that we’re ready to do it.”
Bryan App can be reached at 256-740-5730 or email@example.com. Follow @bappster on Twitter.