Anthony McCall’s halftime message was stern, serious — and prophetic.
“I was just honest with them and told them, ‘Look, that team played harder than you in that first half and they kicked your tails,’” McCall said. “That’s what they did, but we always talk about staying the course. I always go back to that. We’re going to go out here in the second half and do what we do.”
Down at halftime, Montgomery Academy dominated the third quarter in its 42-17 win Friday night at Alabama Christian. Quarterback Barton Lester and running back Nelson Whyte each had two rushing scores, and the Eagles (9-1) posted four interceptions in winning their eighth straight game.
MA will start its Class 3A playoff run next week, hosting Hillcrest-Evergreen.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” McCall said. “We’re just going to get together on Sunday and start working on Hillcrest. We’ll see how it all shakes out.”
ACA (1-9) closed out its season on a four-game losing skid. The Eagles led 10-7 at the half, but were unable to hold off MA in their season finale.
“They’re a good football team, and we were going to have to bring it in the second half,” ACA coach Bill Moore said. “I felt like we brought it, but just didn’t quite execute a couple of things.”
At halftime, McCall said he told his Eagles they’d score to start the second half, force a three-and-out and score again. Sure enough, Whyte sandwiched a defensive stop with two touchdown runs off late Lester pitches as MA took a 21-10 lead early in the third quarter.
“They were both the same plays,” said Whyte, who rushed for 170 yards. “They bit on our quarterback. That middle guy, he came down and Barton pitched it to me. It was just an open lane down the field.”
Lester had tried a similar play in the first half, but lost the ball and ACA linebacker Drew Schlemmer returned it for a score to give the Eagles a 10-7 halftime lead. Lester’s decision making worked in MA’s favor in the decisive third as Whyte scored from 74 and 47 yards out off those late pitches.
“Hit two out of three so we’re good,” Lester said.
Lester also had a pair of touchdown runs as he ran for 167 yards and also threw a touchdown. His second touchdown run of 46 yards answered Garrett Cottingham’s 48-yard touchdown catch as Lester broke tackles, cut across field and scored in giving the Eagles a 35-17 edge in the fourth quarter.
Mason Young put the finishing touches on the MA victory with an interception return for a touchdown in the fourth. Brooks Vinson, Jake Parker and Lester also intercepted ACA senior quarterback Grayson Blackwell, but Young returned his pick for six.
“Put the ball in my hands, I’m scoring baby,” said a smiling Mason.
Having only six seniors, Moore believes ACA will drop from 5A to 4A next season and is optimistic about the program’s future. ACA’s junior varsity team went undefeated, Moore said.
“(Class) 5A has been difficult,” Moore said. “There’s no if, ands or buts about it. Our seniors really laid the foundation because they chose to be a part of what we were doing, and they set the standard for how to work and prepare.”
For MA, it is playoff time. The Eagles want to pick up where they left off Friday night.
“I think it was great we were down at halftime in this game,” Lester said. “Faced some adversity, but I think we’re really going to come out strong and play a lot harder, especially in the first half next week.”