Squadron defeats Purple Cats, advances in playoffs

Published 6:07 pm Friday, November 17, 2023

By Keith McCormick

Special to the Luverne Journal

Thursday night lights burned bright Nov. 9 with the Highland Home Flying Squadron hosting the Purple Cats of Ariton in the first round of the playoffs for the 2A Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) brackets. Ariton showed up with a great fan base and the team came ready to play, but on the home side, Highland Home fans filled the stands, and there was standing room only along the fence line. 

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Before kickoff, Squadron head coach Will Pouncey described how the team prepared for the challenge.

“We worked to keep it as routine as possible,” Pouncey said. “It’s the playoffs, and everything is about advancing and surviving while executing to the best of our abilities.”

The game began with Ariton receiving the ball. After Ariton’s initial first down, the Squadron locked in and launched their routine process on offense and defense. 

The first quarter was all defense, with Highland Home coming closest to scoring, but ending up empty handed.

In the second quarter, the script changed with No. 3 Bryce McKenzie striking first with a quarterback sneak into the end zone for the first score of the game.  McKenzie was far from finished with a connection to No. 12 Tyler Chaney for a touchdown. The “Bryce Mckenzie show” continued with a 36-yard touchdown run on the very next drive.

Just before the second half, Ariton head coach Steven Kilcrease, touched on the Purple Cats’ need to ramp up their offensive efforts.

“Offensively [we] have to do a better job of protecting the quarterback and make some plays offensively,” 

Defensively, to begin the third quarter, No. 11 TJ Washington came up with a big interception, which led to a McKenzie touchdown.

When the Squadron regained possession, McKenzie connected with Chaney for a 79-yard touchdown reception. Immediately after that, No. 2 Austin Crittenden intercepted the ball from the Purple Cats running back and carried it into the Squadron end zone for a touchdown.

The Purple Cats were able to get onto the board late into the 4th quarter, but it seemed too late at that point with the Squadron winning the first round of the 2023 2A playoffs by a score of 45-6.

Highland Home advances to the second round of playoffs and travels to challenge B.B. Comer in Sylacauga on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.