By JOHN ROBERT PAGE
Haleyville 31 Hamilton 29
HAMILTON -This past Friday, a new chapter was engraved in the historic 76-game rivalry between the 4-2 Hamilton Aggies and the 2-4 Haleyville Lions. A first-half dominated by the Aggies led to a second-half filled with Lion scores. At the end of four hard-fought quarters and a last drive effort from the Aggies, Haleyville claimed the win in a nail-biter by a score of 31-29.
The Aggies received possession to start the game, and they had a plan to take the life out of the Haleyville defense. On the first play of the game, Matthew Coleman pitched the ball to Bryant Loving. Loving drew all the attention to himself, but his plan was never to run. Instead, he dropped back on the flea-flicker to find a wide-open Adam Frost for a 64-yard touchdown reception. With only 17 seconds into the game and a good PAT, the Aggies led the Lions 7-0.
This completely took the Lions off guard, as they did not answer in their following drive. The Hamilton offense proceeded to perform a long drive from their own eight that carried on until the second quarter, where a fourth and goal conversion was killed by the Lions. Nothing came out of the stop though as the Aggies forced a three-and-out. Hamilton followed their fourth-down failure with a huge success.
On the second play of the drive, Matthew Coleman bounced around the pocket before finding Bryant Loving on the outside.
Loving slipped past his defender to make a diving catch in the endzone for another Aggie score.
With 10:25 left in the second stanza, the Aggies took a 14-0 lead over the Lions.
The Haleyville offense answered with a prolonged drive of their own. However, it did not end in a touchdown.
Instead, a 40-yard field goal rang true for Ezekiel Shipman, who helped the Lions cut into the lead 14-3. This was followed by an empty Aggie drive and a Lion knee to take the game into halftime.
The Lions came out of halftime with desperation, but the Aggies came out with confidence.
On third and six of the Haleyville drive, a pass deflected off a Lion receiver and into the hands of Hamilton’s Jayden Hatcher.
Hatcher took the interception in stride past the Lions for an Aggie pick-six with 11:02 left in the third period.
Thomas Angel’s kick was good for the Aggies, lengthening the lead to a score of 21-3.
The Haleyville offense doubled their desperation on the next drive, where they chipped yardage away from the Aggie defense. First downs were followed by more first downs, and with 3:50 left until the fourth quarter, the Lions punched in a touchdown of their own via a quarterback sneak on the Hamilton one.
Suddenly, the Lions ate at the lead to create a score of 21-10.
An unsuccessful Aggie drive ended in an unsuccessful punt, as the Lions blocked the punt to set their offense up at the Haleyville 48.
The Lions came out with a ground attack, which resulted in even more first downs.
They followed this plan all the way for another rushing touchdown with 8:34 left in the game to minimize the gap with a score of 21-17.
The Aggies immediately wanted to answer with their own touchdown, but their offense never took the field. On the kickoff, what was almost a returned touchdown led to a disastrous fumble which was recovered by Haleyville at their 33.
The offense picked up right where they left off by running through Hamilton’s defenses. A 32-yard gain was followed by two first downs to set the Lions up at the Aggie four.
Will Bartes punched in the touchdown that gave Haleyville their first lead of the game by a score of 24-21 with 6:49 left in the fourth stanza.
The Aggie offense started their drive strong, picking up a couple of first downs of their own through the air.
This wouldn’t last, as an interception right into the Haleyville defensive line would take possession away from the trailing Aggies.
The Lions capitalized on this, as on third and five Eli Musso took a quarterback rush 40-yards to extend the Haleyville lead to 31-21.
The Aggies now had to overcome a 10-point deficit.
On the third play of the crucial Hamilton drive, Matthew Coleman threw the ball 32 yards upfield to the sprinting Loving.
Loving made a miraculous play, catching the ball on the defender’s back while falling across the goal line for an Aggie touchdown with 2:32 left in the game.
With the score at 27-31, the Aggies needed two huge points to cut the Lion lead to two. The two-point conversion saw another flea-flicker, but this time it was Brett Coleman who threw the ball over the Haleyville defense. The pass led to Loving leaping higher than anyone on the field to perform a toe-tap reception, effectively cutting the lead to 31-29.
The Lions attempted to burn the clock but the Aggie line stood strong on fourth and four, securing another chance for the Aggies to take the final lead of the game. The last Aggie drive saw a first down to set the Aggies 41 yards away from victory. Time was a premium for Hamilton, as there were only 10 seconds until the game was over. The following play saw a pass fall into the hands of a Lion defender on the Haleyville 25, securing the tight victory for the Lions.
After this intense matchup, both teams will continue to look to improve their record.
The now 4-3 Hamilton Aggies will seek to end their three-game losing streak as they host the 4-2 Gordo Green Wave, as the 3-4 Haleyville Lions will travel to fight the 3-3 Fayette County Tigers.
See complete story in the Journal Record.