Red Devils beat Bears for first win of 2023

Published 10:13 pm Friday, September 15, 2023

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

Verbena High School got its first win of the 2023 season defeating Billingsley High School 22-18 in front of their home crowd on Sept. 15. The Red Devils brought in a simple game plan to the AHSAA Class 1A Region 4 matchup — run the ball. Verbena ran for 281 yards against the Bears.

“That is who I am. It is just a blue-collar mentality, and we go to work every day and they know that is who we are,” Verbena head coach Allen Brothers said. “It is not pretty, it is not fun to play, but it keeps Verbena with a chance to win.”

Verbena lined up in its bulldozer set and pounded the ball play after play and only threw the ball twice in the game. Trailing 18-8 at halftime, Verbena took its first drive of the second half for points capped by a Jacob Morris 16-yard touchdown run.

The Red Devils’ defense got three fourth down stops in the second half to hold the Bears at 18 points. In the fourth quarter, it was Morris getting into the end zone on a two-yard touchdown run to give Verbena its first lead of the game 22-18 with five minutes left. Morris ran for a game-high 107 yards on 18 carries.

Verbena got its third fourth down stop after that before running out the remainder of the clock.

“I preached all week that positivity breeds positivity,” Brothers said. “We have had a lot of negativity early in the year with plays not going our way. Tonight, things seemed to finally work out.”

Billingsley’s Kaden Cotton got the scoring going with a 15-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Kyle Boice picked off a Verbena pass in the second quarter, then Cotton scampered down the right sideline to set up the Bears inside the Red devils red zone. Quarterback Landon Jones punched in the short five-yard touchdown to double the Billingsley lead at 12-0. Cotton led the Bears in rushing with 161 yards on 11 carries, and Jones ran for 103 yards on 10 carries and two scores.

Verbena’s running game began to wear on the Bears, and on the first play of the next drive Tomas Cabrera broke off a long touchdown run to get Verbena on the board. Cabrera converted the short two-point conversion run to make it 12-8. Cabrera posted 92 yards on 15 carries.

Billingsley responded before halftime with Jones’ second touchdown run to send the Bears to the break up 18-8.

“This was huge for us, and it puts us back into (the thick) of region play,” Brothers said. “They are fighting, and they are building grit. That is not something you are born with and I am a firm believer in you build it, and they are building it. I do not know how many wins we will get this year, but I know in a year or two we are going to be hard to beat. We are going to be back to winning and enjoying the moment.”

Verbena (1-3) travels to Central High School, Hayneville on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. in their next game. Billingsley (1-2) hosts Autaugaville High School on the same day and time.