Cougars cede playoff hopes to Jackson

Published 3:55 pm Wednesday, November 8, 2023

By Keith McCormick

Special to The Luverne Journal

The first round of the Alabama Independent School Association (AISA) playoffs saw the Crenshaw Christian Academy (CCA) Cougars travel to Jackson and challenge the Jackson Academy Eagles Friday. The weather was cold and breezy, but in between the end zones was where the temperature heated up and CCA fell to the Eagles, 48-26.

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In his first year as CCA head coach and athletic director, Brandon Burleson was there alongside the Cougars ready for the battle.  

When asked about thoughts on his first season as the Cougars head coach, Burleson responded, “I am extremely proud of this group of young men. They bonded together and persevered through a late off-season coaching change and never looked back.” 

The Jackson Eagles scored on their first drive, with the Cougars matching the score, except for the Cougars’ two-point conversion that came up unsuccessful. Both teams came to win and it showed they both wanted to keep their season alive one game at a time.  

Before the half, the Eagles did capture another touchdown, and their two-point conversion came up unsuccessful as well, leaving the score at the half 14-6.

“Heart – that is the word that comes to mind when I think of this group,” Burleson said of the Cougars’ efforts. “That is what they displayed tonight.” 

The second half kicked off with two immediate touchdowns by the Eagles, seemingly pushing the win for the Cougars further out of reach but not before No. 7 Senior Brayden Moore’s touchdown pass to No. 1, JB Williams, to the corner of the end zone brought the game back into reach for the Cougars.  With the Eagles scoring again on their following drives, the Cougars were able to keep the game interesting with two touchdown drives in a row and onside recovery kicks by No. 2 Junior Jake Lawrence and No. 51 Junior Dylan Atwell respectively.

Outgoing seniors, No. 54 Pierce Royal, Moore, No. 22 Drake Mills and No. 50 Christian Trotter have been lifelong friends and teammates, like brothers they would say. The student-athletes have seen play on both sides of the ball all year and, Trotter, injured in the Southern game a few weeks back, will be off to the Navy to defend his country just a couple of weeks post-graduation.  

Burleson said the game didn’t finish as planned, but the players never stopped trying.

“The score didn’t go as we might have hoped and the breaks weren’t always in our favor, but these young men never quit,” he said. “I’ve watched these upperclassmen grow so much these past few months and will be indebted to them for the grit and grind that showed even when a lot of people counted them out. Thank you to the Seniors of 2023 for your leadership and dedication.”

Jackson Head Coach Danny Powell, when asked what was the key to their victory against the Cougars, attributed the win to the Eagles’ passing and execution. 

“In the second half we came out and threw the ball better and executed better,” Powell said.  “First half, we kind of struggled with missing a few open guys [and] didn’t protect [the quarterback] real well. [Our team] hung in there tough and played a good first half and second The Eagles advance to the second round of the playoffs on Nov. 9 against Lowndes Academy. Friday’s loss marked the end of CCA’s football season.