Throughout the regular season, Arabia Mountain has proven its merit as a double threat with an equal level of dominance on offense and defense.
These assets will once again be on display in the playoffs as the Rams clinched back-to-back Region 5-AAAAA championships following 27-14 win over Southwest DeKalb at Godfrey Stadium.
“This feels great. These guys have put in a lot of hard work since January,” said Arabia Mountain head coach Stanley Pritchett. This is my fifth year. These guys have bought into the program. We have the program going in the right direction. I feel good for these young men. The put in a lot of work in practice and in school. I am so proud of them.”
Arabia Mountain’s defense has made a habit of punishing the opposition on a weekly basis and their clash with Southwest DeKalb was no different. The Rams’ points allowed average for the year is 13 and they held the Panthers to within a point over this mark.
“It starts with us as coaches. I listen to their ideas, they listen to mine and we come together and pass it down to our boys,” said Arabia Mountain defensive coordinator Dante Ferguson. “We knew coming in that Southwest DeKalb was a tough team, so we wanted to put a lot of pressure on them and stop them before they get started.”
Both schools banged heads in the first half with little to show for on the offensive side of the ball. The Rams led 3-0 at the end of the opening quarter and midway through the second before Southwest DeKalb found a way to score.
Wide receiver Aquil Muhammad recorded the game’s first touchdown when he hauled in a pass from Seoul Newtown, making the game 7-3 in favor of the Panthers.
However, Arabia Mountain responded on the ensuing drive.
Two-way starter Justin Nelson lined up in the backfield and scored on a 1-yard plunge. This 10-7 score would hold at halftime.
The Rams were limited to a 30-yard field goal by Malcolm Grinnell in the third quarter to go up, 13-7.
This slim margin was pushed out to an insurmountable advantage following a 17-yard touchdown connection from quarterback Bryson Williams to wide receiver Matthew Crawford and another short-yardage run by Nelson. Sandwiched between these scores was an interception by Nelson with four minutes on the clock.
“It’s amazing to win another championship. This is my senior year and I had to get this one more time for my boys,” said Nelson. “I feel like we’re the most hated team in DeKalb. We make a statement each time we step on the field. Going into the playoffs, we have to stay humble, be prepared and don’t get a big head.”
Southwest DeKalb was on the short end of the stick in this contest, but the Panthers are still bound for the postseason.
They took this field in this affair with a second-string quarterback in the starting lineup. They look to close out the regular season next week against Columbia and open the playoffs with a clean bill of health.
“We put our young quarterback in some bad situations,” said Southwest DeKalb head coach Damien Wimes. “I like the way the kids played hard. It’s all about coming back next week and we how we respond. We’re going to continue to build. We’re going to take some of the things he did well on film and build off of those plays.”