By MIKE TANKERSLEY
The Arab Tribune
What a difference a year makes.
Arab senior quarterback Ross Reynolds, who was knocked out of last year’s Ardmore game and lost for the season, got a healthy measure of revenge Friday night as Arab led the Tigers 28-0 before the game’s first heat timeout in the first quarter and went on to a decisive 42-14 win.
That makes Arab’s record 3-1 and 1-1 in Class 5A, Region 8 heading into Friday night’s huge region game vs. rival Guntersville, a stunning 42-14 loser to Scottsboro last Friday (see the complete region standings and high school scoreboard on page 4B).
Arab led 42-0 at the half with Reynolds contributing mightily to Arab’s total. He passed for 207 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 36 yards and two touchdowns.
It was a major turnaround for Reynolds who left last year’s Ardmore game in the second quarter and never returned in 2018.
Reynolds described his injury as an avulsion fracture of his left pelvis. An avulsion fracture is a condition in which a tendon that connects a bone to a muscle pulls away a part of the bone.
If that sounds serious, it was. Reynolds had to be rolled back onto the field for the second half in a wheelchair.
When asked about whether the injury motivated him against the Tigers, Reynolds minced no words.
“Absolutely,” he said.
But it was more motivation than revenge. After recovering, Reynolds went to work during the offseason and put on 30 pounds of almost entirely muscle. He changed from a quarterback who was easily hurt into a battering ram not afraid to carry the ball every play if necessary.
“Ross was dialed in tonight but Ross is always dialed in,” Arab coach Lee Ozmint said.
Ozmint said he was proud of the way all his players responded to last week’s bitter loss at Brewer, a game Arab led by 11 points in the second half.
“We played well in all three phases of football for the better part of three quarters,” he said. “I was so proud of them. They played with confidence and focus in the first half.
“It took 42 points for some of them to lose that focus.”
But the Knights were a whirlwind in building that 42-point advantage. On the fourth play of the first drive, Reynolds found Colby King on a post pattern, and the senior receiver dragged an Ardmore defender the final 5 yards into the end zone to complete a 38-yard TD pass with 10:16 left in the quarter.
Arab’s defense held the Tigers on downs, then a bad snap to the punter enabled Jonathan Pugh to tackle the punter, and Arab ended up with the ball at the Ardmore 2. On the next play, Alex Alcala ran it in for a TD to make it 14-0 with 7:43 to go in the quarter.
On Ardmore’s next play, Tyler Alldredge intercepted and rerturned it for a touchdown, but Arab was called for a block in the back on the return. No sweat. Starting first-and-10 at the Ardmore 16, it took the Knights four plays to score, the final play a 1-yard sneak by Reynolds.
Colin Stewart’s third of six extra points made it 21-0 with 6:24 to play in the opening quarter.
Yes, the Knights found a way to score again before the first-quarter heat timeout. Ardmore actually had a good kickoff return to its own 46, but on the first play, the Tigers fumbled and Christian Eaton recovered at the 46.
On the next play, Reynolds found King again behind the Ardmore secondary, and the result was a 46-yard TD pass.
There was 5:58 left in the quarter, and the Tigers appeciated the heat break.
The Knights kept up the intensity but didn’t score again in the quarter, though they tried. Reynolds was intercepted in the end zone on first-and-10 from 27 yards out, and Ardmore was able to run out the first quarter clock with five of just 11 offensive plays in the period. The Tigers were able to make their first, first down with under a minute to play in the quarter.
After another first down, Ardmore returned to its self-destructive ways, fumbling the snap and allowing Pugh to make a tackle for a loss of 11 yards to the Ardmore 35.That forced a punt three plays later.
The Knights started at their own 36 with 9:26 to play in the half. A penalty pushed them back to the 31, then Reynolds hit Alcala with a 5-yard pass before running around end on a keeper that gained 22 yards to the Ardmore 42. Reynolds then hit Will Hudson with a 12-yard pass.
Arab was freely substituting by now, and Hayden O’Reilly ran it next and after a facemask penalty, the Knights had it on Ardmore’s 25. Next play, Reynolds found – who else – King on a 25-yard scoring play. Arab led 35-0 and there was still 7:19 to play in the half.
Because of post-TD unsportsmanlike penalty on the Ardmore sideline, Arab kicked off from their own 45, and Gavin Currier’s perfectly placed kick was muffed by the Tigers, and Arab recovered at its own 5.
On fourth-and-goal, Reynolds ran it in from the 1, and Arab was up 42-0 with still 5:42 left in the half.
After Ardmore’s most effective drive of the half, Arab stopped the Tigers and made one last effort to score, reaching Ardmore’s 21. But for the first time this season, Stewart tried a field goal, this one from 38 yards out, and also for the first time this season, Stewart failed to convert a kick. His effort was true but just short.
Arab substituted even more freely in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter when no starters hit the field, according to Ozmint. The Tigers scored two touchdowns and Ozmint was a little upset with his players’ execution and focus, but he understood.
“For one half, we really did get after it,” Ozmint said. “I could tell it when they came out on the field, they had a different feeling in warmups. They had a quiet instensity. I am so proud of them.
“We’ve still got a lot of improvement. We made some big leaps tonight but they’ve still got to be able to finish strong, and they didn’t do that tonight.
“But there was a lot of improvement from last week. We still made some dumb penalties but there wasn’t an epidemic. It was a tough week after losing last week. But they improved. In the first half, they were better than I’ve ever seen them.
“These kids are learning. Guntersville is a big rival and a region game and we’ve got to keep our eyes focus on what’s ahead of us.”
• Currier broke a 0-0 tie with a 35-yard field goal as time expired in the first half and the Arab junior varsity went on to a 10-0 win against Albertville on Monday night.
O’Reilly scored on a 6-yard run in the third quarter and Currier tacked on the extra point.