The teams combined for 16 penalties throughout the game, and a Phillips player was ejected in the fourth quarter, but things got even uglier after the fifth-ranked Tigers claimed a 54-20 victory to advance to the second round to host eighth-ranked Pickens County (9-2) next Friday.
During the customary post-game handshake between teams, a fight broke out on the field. After coaches and school officials from both sides broke up the skirmish between the players, Cedar Bluff head coach Jonathan McWhorter directed his team to the locker room. The Bears huddled back on their sideline before heading to their busses shortly thereafter.
“It’s just an unfortunate situation,” McWhorter said. “It’s something nobody wants to be part of. We had some things go on throughout the game that I felt like got things out of hand a little bit. We were kind of fearful something might happen at the end. We thought we were taking precautions for that not to happen, but unfortunately we had an incident.
“One of their kids hit one of our kids. It’s definitely not the way you want to end a good night. It kind of puts a stain on it. We won the game, but unfortunately we had to deal with all this mess.”
Cedar Bluff (10-0) built a 41-6 lead at halftime behind the passing of senior quarterback Levi Mintz. Mintz completed 16 of 26 pass attempts for the game for 325 yards and five touchdowns.
However, it was Phillips quarterback Rodney Camp that stole the show early in the game.
Camp put the Bears (5-6) out in front on the game’s third play, connecting on a 68-yard bomb to Jonathan Crumpton for a touchdown.
The Bears went for two, but Camp’s pass fell incomplete, keeping the score at 6-0 just 56 seconds into the game.
Camp completed 10 of 34 pass attempts for 169 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions.
“We knew he was a pretty good player, very explosive, very athletic. He was everything we saw on film,” McWhorter said. “I felt like our coaches had a good game plan for them. I felt like we contained him enough to be able to have some success. We struggled offensively trying to run the ball a little bit with what they were doing defensively front-wise. It caused us some problems. We had some success here and there running the ball.”
That here-and-there running success showed on the Tigers’ first drive. Sophomore running back D’Shawn Fife scored on a 10-yard touchdown run at the 8:55 mark of the first quarter. Curtis Abernathy’s extra point gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead.
Fife finished with 113 yards on 24 totes with two touchdowns. His first touchdown was the first of 47 unanswered points by the Tigers, who built a 41-6 lead at halftime.
Abernathy also rushed for 104 yards on nine carries.
On the Bears’ next possession, Cedar Bluff’s Terrance Scales picked off a Camp pass near midfield and returned it to the Bear 37. One play later, Mintz tossed his first touchdown pass – a 45-yarder – to senior receiver DeAngelo Hardy with 8:14 remaining. The score put Cedar Bluff in front 14-6.
Hardy finished with four catches for 152 yards.
After a Phillips drive stalled at the Tiger 15, Cedar Bluff marched 85 yards in seven plays, capped off by Fife’s second touchdown – a 13-yard run. Abernathy’s kick made it 21-6 Tigers with 1:47 to go in the first quarter.
Phillips fumbled on its next possession, which was recovered by the Tigers’ Blake Terry with a minute to go in the quarter. Nine plays later, Mintz took it in from a yard, making the score 28-6.
After the kickoff, Camp was picked off again by the Tigers’ Dalton Cosby. Cedar Bluff marched 60 yards in 10 plays, with the end result being Mintz’s second touchdown toss – an 11-yarder to Abernathy. The extra point was no good, but the Tigers were in control at 34-6 with 7:29 to go in the half.
The Tigers tacked on one more score before halftime on Mintz’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Rickey Pendley.
Pendley led the Tiger receivers with seven catches for 124 yards.
Mintz tossed his fourth touchdown pass to his fourth different receiver with 7:05 left in the third quarter. This one went to Devante Dixon, and it gave the Tigers a 41-6 advantage.
Phillips finally got on the scoreboard in the second half on Camp’s 27-yard touchdown pass to Crumpton with 11:51 left in the game. Crumpton was the leading pass catcher for the Bears with eight catches for 158 yards and two scores. He also led the Bears in rushing with 97 yards on three carries.
Camp connected on the 2-point conversion to Austin Mitchell to make the score 47-14.
Mintz threw his final touchdown pass of the night on a 25-yard pass to Dixon with 11:04 remaining, pushing the Tiger lead to 54-14.
Crumpton scored the game’s final touchdown on a 78-yard run at the 7:55 mark of the fourth.
With Phillips behind them, the Tigers can focus on Pickens County, a 63-0 winner over Falkville in other playoff action Friday.
“Pickens has had a lot of success this year, and we’re familiar with them playing in the basketball finals,” McWhorter said. “I know they have a really good program overall. We’ll have our hands full. Hopefully our kids will be ready to go. This time of year, you either bring your best or you may not be around. I fully expect our kids to do that.”