Arab coach Lee Ozmint said last Friday morning, “I expect us to put together a complete game tonight” against Springville.
Mission 99 percent accomplished: Arab defeated Springville 27-0 in a performance not exactly perfect, but certainly good enough, especially considering the circumstances.
Oxford and Arab both won easily at home to nail down the first two 6A, Region 7 seeds. Both teams have 5-1 region records and will host first-round games when the playoffs begin Nov. 5.
Arab’s likely opponent will be Homewood though that is not official. If Homewood defeats Pelham in a non-region game Friday, it will earn the Region 5 No. 3 seed over Chelsea and Shades Valley in a tiebreaker. All are 3-3 in region play.
Oxford (6-3) jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead against Fort Payne and held on for a 41-13 win to secure the top seed, based on its head-to-head win against Arab three weeks. Oxford will likely play Chelsea.
Arab will host a state playoff game for just the third time. As a reminder, this is an AHSAA event and all tickets will be $10 and are available at GoFan. No reserved seat tickets, Gold Card or employee passes will be accepted as this is a state]-sanctioned event.
Needless to say, Ozmint was pretty excited about the Knights’ postseason accomplishment.
“They better come early (on Nov. 5),” a smiling Ozmint said half-jokingly after the Springville game, “because it’s gonna be crowded.”
Ozmint was overall pleased with how his team responded after the devastating loss to Oxford that cost the team a chance for an outright region championship, which would’ve been the school’s first.
He noted the squad passed a true gut-check practice the Tuesday before the game.
“We tested them,” Ozmint said of the Tuesday practice. “It was pretty close to a complete game.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Arab QB Ed Johnson hit twin brother Wes Johnson on a 43-yard TD pass. Later in the quarter, Ed Johnson ran 4 yards for another touchdown to make it 14-0 at the half.
Arab took the second half kickoff and scored on the first play when Drake Franklin went 65 yards to the end zone.
Ed Johnson was 8-of-17 passing for 144 yards. Franklin had nine carries for 93 yards. Wes Johnson had six catches for 132 yards and now has 40 catches for 572 yards and seven touchdowns.
He’s had at least one TD catch in every region game.
Drew Puccio gained 49 yards on just two carries and Hayden O’Reilly had five attempts for 41 yards. Ed Johnson had 38 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Patrick Lawler had nine solo stops and three assists for the Knights’ defense, which had to adjust with the loss of key defensive lineman Jonah Humphreys to a knee injury. Ozmint praised Logan Silva and Conner Knighten for their work in Arab’s revamped defensive front.
Silva had six solo stops. Josh Roe had five solo tackles and three assists. Mitchell Duquette had four solo stops and four assists. Caleb Roe and Jackson Martin each had five tackles.
Jacob Cobb had two tackles and two assists and Jonathan Pugh had two tackles and one assist.
John Ray Wilks made his fourth interception of the season and almost returned it for a score in the fourth quarter but the return was mostly nullified because of a block-in-the-back penalty. He also had two solo stops and one assist.
O’Reilly and Wes Johnson had one tackle each.
Springville moved the ball on Arab, especially in the first half, but costly mistakes kept stopping the Tigers. Springville lost two of three fumbles and QB Ashton Frye threw an interception. Penalties also hurt potential scoring drives as the Tigers lost 55 yards on five penalties.
It wasn’t just the turnovers that hurt the Tigers. Three plays into the second quarter, on fourth-and-5 at the Arab 42, a bad snap caused punter John Wolf to go down at his own 43. On the next play, Ed Johnson connected with Wes Johnson on the 43-yard scoring strike.
Later in the quarter, a Springville ball carrier was stripped of the ball after a run to the Arab 34. Nine plays later, Ed Johnson ran it in from the 4 to make it 14-0 with 2:55 left in the half.
Springville kicked off to start the second half, and the ball went out of bounds, giving Arab the ball at their own 35. On the first play, Franklin ran around right end and scooted down the sidelines for a 65-yard TD run.
Two drives later, Springville forced Arab to punt but it was muffed and the Knights recovered at the Springville 34. Seven plays later, Gavin Currier nailed a 31-yard field goal to make it 24-0 with 4:03 left in the third quarter.
Currier added a 21-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for the final margin.
First-year Springville coach Jon Clements has watched such mistakes bite his team all season.
“All year, man, all year,” a frustrated Clements said. “You can’t give good players and good teams the ball like that.
“We’re a better team than what we showed. It had a lot to do with Arab because they’re a very good team.”