Maplesville earns return trip to state championship game

Published 10:22 pm Friday, November 28, 2014

Maplesville players celebrate after Friday's 33-8 win over Billingsley in the semifinal round of the Class 1A state playoffs.

Maplesville players celebrate after Friday’s 33-8 win over Billingsley in the semifinal round of the Class 1A state playoffs.

Billingsley’s Jaytarius Steele crossed the goal line with 7 seconds left to play Friday to end a long and perplexing streak against rival Maplesville.

Unfortunately for Steele and his teammates, the streak that came to an end was not the losing streak that grew to 12 games with Maplesville’s win Friday.

Instead, Steele’s run marked the first time Billingsley had scored against MHS since 2008. It wasn’t nearly enough, as by the time of Billingsley’s long overdue touchdown, Maplesville had put 33 points on the Mims Field scoreboard.

With the 33-8 win, the Red Devils (13-0) advance to the Class 1A state championship for the second straight year.

Maplesville's Tyler Armstrong celebrates with fans after the game.

Maplesville’s Tyler Armstrong celebrates with fans after the game.

After a disappointing championship game loss last year at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, this time the Devils will take their show on the road to Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, seeking the program’s first state title since 1996.

MHS will play Hubbertville at 3 p.m. on Dec. 4.

The crowd in Billingsley on Friday, which outnumbered the seats available and even the vantage points available along the fence that surrounds the field, would certainly believe the Devils capable of bring home a trophy, after witnessing their latest dominating performance.

Defense was the story of the first half of play.

Maplesville scored first, on a six-yard quarterback keeper by Cole Spencer with 7:44 remaining in the first quarter, but only after the Devils were set up at Billingsley’s 10-yard line by an interception and run back by Kendarius Bradley.

When the visitors took possession of the football near midfield with 8:42 remaining to play in the second quarter, the teams had combined for just five first downs.

Struggling to sustain a drive, the Devils instead used a big play, as Spencer found Loftin Smith streaking down the field from the 36-yard line. The junior corralled the ball as he ran then juked a defender inside Billingsley’s 10-yard line and went in for the score.

The point-after attempt was no good, but Maplesville led 13-0 with 7:09 on the clock.

Billingsley (10-3) drove into Maplesville territory on the ensuing possession, and appeared to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-three with a pass from Dalton Davis to Steele, but the play was called back by a false start penalty and the Bears ultimately punted.

Davis was pressed into action when Billingsley’s usual quarterback, Thomas Nichols, separated his shoulder in last week’s win over Brantley.

Cole Spencer rushes for one of his three touchdowns on the ground during Friday's game. The quarterback also accounted for one touchdown through the air.

Cole Spencer rushes for one of his three touchdowns on the ground during Friday’s game. The quarterback also accounted for one touchdown through the air.

Taking over with less than 4 minutes left in the half, Maplesville’s offense seemed to find a rhythm, with Spencer keeping the chains moving with accurate passes and athletic runs, but sacks by Billingsley’s Terrance Nolen and Jeffery Lee ended the scoring threat.

The second half was all Maplesville.

Bradley ended the first possession of the half with an interception, leaping for a jump ball and wrestling it away from the receiver.

A sack by Jordan Brown forced MHS into a short punt, but though the Bears took over on Maplesville’s 24-yard line, they were stopped on fourth down from the Devils’ 19.

It would turn out to be Billingsley’s best chance of getting back into the game, as Maplesville scored on a 14-yard run by Terrance Dunlap with 1:44 left in the third quarter, then, after an interception by Dunlap, Spencer scored on a one-yard sneak to make the score 26-0 after John Schoener’s point-after.

“Turnovers got us again there in the second half,” said Billingsley coach Tyson McLean, who saw seven turnovers doom his team in a regular season loss to Maplesville. “We had a few turnovers and we gave them the short field twice, and that kind of took us out of the game. It put them ahead by too many scores, and then it just kind of got away from us.

Spencer scored his third rushing touchdown, this time from seven yards out, with 8:02 remaining.

The Maplesville quarterback rushed 12 times for 67 yards and completed 12-of-21 passes for 166 yards.

“That defense was stepping up and stopping us,” Spencer said. “Coach called my number, I just stepped up and got some first downs and we kept going.”

Dunlap rushed 18 times for 108 yards.

Nathaniel Watson caught four passes for 48 yards.

“We thought we could throw more than we did last time,” Hubbert said. “The first time we played, we only attempted five passes because we had 500 yards on the ground.”

Javon Brown led Billingsley with 49 yards on nine rushes.