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Rebels cut FDA’s playoff dreams short

The Bessemer Academy Rebels fought and won the war in the trenches early, owning the line of scrimmage and snuffing out the FDA’s playoff hopes in the process with a 49-6 win over the Eagles.

The first quarter’s opening minutes was a different story however, as the walls of Fort Dale held firm at their own three-yard line, forcing a Rebel turnover on downs.

It was on offense where the Eagles’ troubles began as a pass on third and long sailed into the hands of Rebel Xaviar Coleman, who returned the pick-six 20 yards for a 7-0 Bessemer Academy lead with 4:43 remaining in the first quarter.

Coleman would later make the Eagles’ secondary pay on a lunging 50-yard grab, setting up running back Justin Jones for a 5-yard run to give the Rebels a 14-point advantage.

A short FDA punt gave Bessemer a short field to work with on their fourth drive as they started the drive in Eagle territory.

A relentless Rebel run game punched it into the end zone with 5 minutes left to play in the half to make it 21-0.

Coleman burned the Eagle secondary again on drive No. 5 as quarterback Ty Hatcher hit him in stride for a 53-yard touchdown, nudging the Rebel lead to 28 points.

Lastly, a high FDA snap on a punt attempt gave Bessemer the ball at the Eagles’ 15-yard line with 1:47 left in the half.  A minute and 12 seconds later, the Rebels found pay dirt for the fifth time in the half to end the second quarter with a 35-0 lead.

FDA head football coach James “Speed” Sampley said that the Eagles lost the war on every front Friday.

“We got beat in every aspect of the game,” he said. “They were better than we were at everything they did tonight.

“We just couldn’t get anything going offensively.  If we were going to have a chance to win, we were going to have to be good on offense, and we weren’t tonight. They whipped us up front and they had a good game plan.”

FDA quarterback Luke Taylor reenergized the Eagles midway through the third. A Rebel defender bit on receiver Jason Little’s hitch-and-go route, freeing him up for a 33-yard catch.  The pass set up Taylor for a 3-yard touchdown run-in for the Eagles’ only score.

Though Sampley spent 60 minutes coaching his players Friday, his most valuable parting lesson came in the postgame huddle.

“I told them I loved them,” Sampley said.  I told them we play with the people we raise here. We’re going to do the best we can every time, and I wouldn’t trade them for anybody else.

“We had 15 seniors on this football team, and they’ve played for us for a long time. I went back this week and watched the game from two years ago against Bessemer, and they were all little babies in the 10th grade then.  But they grew up, they played well and they had a good year.  It’s hard to say that now, but we’ll look back on it and see how it was.  Hopefully we can build on this and move on in the future.”

Taylor was 7 for 17 for 94 passing yards.

His favorite target was Little, who had 3 catches for 51 yards.

Taylor and Braxton Daniels led the Eagles’ defense with 13 tackles apiece.