From Special Reports
CARROLLTON, Ala. — Josh Lewis and Joel Pratt helped the Pickens Academy football team start the season in rousing fashion Friday night.
Lewis and Pratt combined to rush for 450 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-16 victory against Sparta Academy in the season opener for both teams.
Lewis had 12 carries for 237 yards and a touchdown, while Pratt had six carries for 213 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the team with eight tackles.
In all, Pickens Academy rushed 38 times for 522 yards. The Pirates didn’t have any yards passing.
“They are both about 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds and run about a 4.6 (40-yard dash), which is very good for our league,” said Pickens Academy coach John Gartman, whose team dropped from Class AA to Class A this season. “They are very interchangeable.”
Gartman credited the play of the offensive linemen and tight ends Phil Fikes, Jamison McCrary, Chase Britt, Hunter Booth, Cody Scott, Preston McGahey, and Reese McGlawn for helping the Pirates control the game on the ground. He acknowledged Pickens Academy likely will have to become more balanced as the season progresses, but the season-opening running explosion was more than he could have imagined.
“I didn’t think we would get quite that many, but we’re very run-oriented, so when we play well we tend to rack up some yards,” Gartman said. “I think that is the most we have had since I have been here.”
Pratt scored on runs of 80, 74, and 58 yards.
“He has been one of our better players for a while,” Gartman said of Pratt. He is a great defensive player. He has played in the secondary and as an outside linebacker type of role. He is a three-year starter on both sides of the ball.”
Lewis scored on a 55-yard run. Garrett Estes also had 19 carries for 50 yards and two touchdowns, while Sam Beachler had a 22-yard touchdown run on his only carry.
“We were able to give those backs a little bit of a crease and they were able to take advantage of it and had several long runs,” Gartman said.
Cody Scott had an interception return for a score. Lewis converted 7 of 8 extra points.
Pickens Academy allowed 215 total yards and lost three of five fumbles.
Pickens Academy will play at 7 p.m. Friday at Sumter Academy.
n Linden 46, Pickens County 35: At Reform, Ala., Devonte Simon ran for a touchdown and threw for two more, but the Tornadoes lost the preseason game at home.
Linden, the No. 2 team in the Alabama Sports Writers Association preseason poll, lost to Marion County in the Class 1A state title game last season.
Pickens County, the No. 6 team in the ASWA preseason poll, went 11-2 and lost to Sweet Water in the third round of the Class 1A state playoffs last season.
Pickens County coach Patrick Plott said he scheduled the preseason game against Linden to show his players what they would have to work on to get a chance to play for a championship. He feels Linden has the potential to get to play for another state title, and he challenged his players to improve so they will be able to get another shot at Linden later this year.
“We still have a long way to go, but we played well in spurts,” Plott said. “They were more physical than us, and that is basically why they won the ballgame.”
Pickens County took a 36-35 lead with a little more than a minute to play. Linden took over on its 40-yard line and drove for the winning score, punching it home from the 5-yard line with eight seconds to play.
Pickens County fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Linden scored a final touchdown to account for the final margin.
Plott praised the play of Simon and his kicker, but he reiterated the Tornadoes need to be more physical up front and on defense.
“I think it was a good test,” Plott said. “Linden played in the state championship game last year, and year in and year out they are a great team. They’re in the South, and I think they’re good enough to make it back to the state championship game this year. We realize we need to put in some more work and get better and maybe we will get them again.”
Pickens County plays host to Fayette County at 7 p.m. Friday in its season opener.