Quarterback ArDarius Stewart has pulled a lot of rabbits out of his helmet for Fultondale this season.
And though he had another night full of big stats numbers, he couldn’t pull off the magic tricks often enough to counter the double whammy from quarterback Demetrius Lindsey and running back Chris Tucker, as No. 10 Lineville came away Friday night with a 38-26 victory in the quarterfinal round of the AHSAA Class 2A playoffs.
The loss ended the Wildcats’ deepest run ever into the post-season, while the Aggies live at least another week in their final season ever. The school will merge with Clay County next year to form Clay County Central.
In the early going, it looked as if Stewart was going to do what he had done so many times before. After a three-and-out to open the game, Deundrea Marshall intercepted a Lindsey pass and returned it to the Aggie 24. When a holding penalty on the next play set the Wildcats back, Marshall ran the ball straight up the middle for 31 yards and the score.
Fultondale held the Aggies scoreless in the first quarter, but the visitors got on the board early in the second period when the Cats fumbled a bad snap deep in their own territory, and Marshall kicked the ball over the end line to concede a safety.
Lineville got their first touchdown on the ensuing possession on a 14-yard run by Hunter. The Aggies went up 10-7 when the extra-point attempt was faked, and holder Lamonyn Brown threw to Ardon Logan for two points.
On the second play of the following drive, Stewart almost slipped and fell, but then found Sherrod Brown open for a 74-yard touchdown pass.
Lineville wasted little time and scored two minutes later, as Lindsey threw to Tyrone Cosby for a 23-yard scoring toss.
After Fultondale gambled on fourth down and three at their own 35 and came up short, Lindsey set up a scoring play with a 26-yard pass to Hunter to get to the five. Lindsey scored form there.
But two plays after the following kickoff, Stewart went long again, and this time found Marshall down the home sideline for a 75-yard touchdown with 2:17 left in the first half. The two-point conversion was no good, and the Aggies were up 24-20 at the break.
After that, Lineville was content to play possession football, keeping it on the ground most of the way. They extended their lead midway through the third quarter when Hunter capped a 61-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run.
Fultondale answered back on the next drive when Stewart, scrambling for life in the backfield, found a slanting Marshall open over the middle. Marshall kept slanting toward the near sideline and got in just inside the pylon for the 47-yard score.
But that was all the hosts could muster, as Hunter put the Aggies’ last score on the board when broke away from an arm tackle and sped 24 yards for the touchdown.
Mistakes cost the Wildcats dearly in the fourth quarter, as a high snap for a 26-yard loss stalled a drive out early in the quarter, then another drive ended with a turnover on downs after Marshall was sacked for a 13-yard loss.
“They just made more plays than we did,” Wildcat coach Keith Register said. “That’s what it comes down to this time of year. If you had told us we’d score 26 on them I wouldn’t believe it. But it was a good high school football game. You hate to lose it, but it was a good game.”
Stewart finished the game with 147 yards rushing on 33 carries, plus 5-for-14 passing for 207 yards with one interception. Marshall had three catches for 116 yards.
Julian Hardy had 13 combined tackles and assists for the game.
Fultondale finishes with a 10-3 record. Lineville (10-3) plays No. 3 Tanner next week in the semifinals.