REFORM, Ala. — Weapons are everywhere for the Pickens County High School football team.
The Tornadoes only needed one of them Friday night.
Jemarcus Brown had 23 carries for 256 yards and five touchdowns to lead Pickens County to a 38-22 victory against Addison in the second round of the Alabama High School Athletics Association Class 1A playoffs.
“I really don’t know what to say. He’s been doing it for us all year,” Pickens County coach Patrick Plott said with a laugh. “All we have to do is give him a crease and we know we’re going to have a chance to score.”
After the teams exchanged fumbles early in the first quarter, Brown took over for Pickens County (12-0). He made his first carry count, following blockers up the middle of the defense and bursting through the secondary. Once Brown passed through the first line of defenders there was no one capable of catching him. He raced to the end zone from 53 yards out to give the Tornadoes a lead in the blink of an eye.
After the defense forced a quick punt on Addison’s ensuing possession, Brown went back to work. The offense marched 77 yards in 17 plays, converting on fourth down three times. Brown carried seven times for 37 yards on the drive, including an 11-yard touchdown to cap it off and give Pickens County (12-0) a 14-0 lead
Addison (9-2) quickly fought back. A 2-yard touchdown score by running back Franky Melson and the two-point conversion cut Pickens County’s lead to 14-8.
A few plays later, Pickens County quarterback Devonte Simon was intercepted. Addison quickly took advantage, scoring again to take a 15-14 lead it held until halftime.
“Addison has got a physical football team. That’s a good football team,” Plott said. “They played with emotion and passion we didn’t have early on in the first half.”
Trailing at halftime isn’t something Brown and this teammates are used to. It’s something Simon addressed with his team after the game.
“We all thought it was going to be easy all the way through the playoffs and up until the championship game,” Simon told the team. “This is a wake-up call. We can’t keep coming out flat like this every week and expect to win.”
Pickens County may have come out flat in the first half, but the message in the locker room at the break was clear.
On the first play of the second half, the Tornadoes went back to Brown, who ran up the middle for a 59-yard touchdown run that helped the team re-claim the lead.
The touchdown, Brown’s third, was similar to his 53-yard touchdown run on his first carry. Unlike the first half, however, Pickens County didn’t let off the gas.
“When we got in the locker room at halftime, coach was telling us we have to step up if we want a championship. I know how close we were last year,” Brown said. “I remember how much that hurt. I knew I had to come out, put my team on my back and just go.”
The Tornadoes forced a punt on Addison’s ensuing possession and quickly put the game out of reach by marching down the field. This time, Brown scored from 3 yards out on an unexpected pitch from Simon. The scoring play gave the Tornadoes a 26-15 lead.
Addison still was able to move the ball on the ground and was within striking distance, but the Pickens County defense had other plans.
With 2 yards to go from its 27-yard line, Addison went for it on fourth down. Pickens County held to force the turnover, which allowed the offense to go back to work. With Brown taking a break, Simon used a few nifty quarterback scrambles. He then found Steffon McCoy on a 6-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 32-15.
“That means a lot to me for those guys, those leaders, to step up,” Plott said. “Those are the guys that have to get us going,” Plott said. “When those guys take charge, their teammates react a lot better to that than anything we can say to them.”
A 2-yard run by Melson cut the deficit to 32-22, but it failed to let the ball go 10 yards on the ensuing onsides kick. Brown returned to seal the deal, going up the middle and scoring from 47 yards.
A few plays later, Pickens County finally managed to intercept an Addison pass. Devonte Simon made the interception, then took over on offense to kneel the ball and run out the clock.
Pickens County will risk its perfect season next week at Ragland.