By LaMar Gafford, Contributing writer
Many had waited six long years to return to the top of the Class 2A mountain. That wait is over. The Tigers defeated Kinder, 16-13, to win in the Class 2A state championship football game Sunday for their first state title since 2014. “We knew coming here that it was going to be a dogfight,” Many coach Jess Curtis said. “You have to be able to make one more play than those guys and you can’t blink. I don’t think those guys did tonight.”
After Many scored 83 points in the Class 2A semifinal against General Trass Dec. 18, its defense stepped up and showed a glimpse of the future thanks to freshman Tylen Singleton and sophomore Tackett Curtis. Singleton won the Most Outstanding Player award after scoring on a 23-yard interception return in the fourth quarter. “The first play where they scored, he messed up,” Curtis said. “But that’s so Many. We get off the canvas and he makes the play that breaks their back. That’s why I’m so proud of my boys. They don’t flinch, they pick up the mouthpiece, put it back in and go to work.”
Curtis also intercepted a pass and led the Tigers with six tackles. “(Tackett’s) my nephew and I love him like a son,” Curtis said. “There’s not a more physical player that will play in this Prep Classic. This guy loves the game of football, he’s in the weight room every day and probably lifts too much. This guy loves football, it’s his life and I’m proud he got to come out there and lay the wood and show people, ‘What about me?'”
Many started slowly after Yellowjacket junior Tylan Ceasar rushed for a 59-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but Many senior Zequarrius “Cadillac” Rhone scored from a yard out to make it 7-6. Tigers senior Trotter Lafollette booted a 32-yard field goal right before halftime to give Many a 9-7 lead. Singleton allowed the team to breathe comfortably by sealing the game with a 23-yard interception return with 9:13 left to give Many a 16-7 lead. “It felt good trying to help my team score,” Singleton said. “It was hard on offense but giving them a score to keep going was great.”
Kinder had a last-gasp effort after Griffin Cooley scored on a 6-yard run with 2:19 left, but Tigers senior Shelton Eaves blocked an extra point to keep it 16-13. Kinder’s onside kick attempt was unsuccessful. Many’s running back duo of Terrence and London Williams combined for 125 yards on 38 carries, while Caesar rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown for Kinder.
LaMar Gafford is the High School/College Sports Reporter for The Town Talk
All photos by Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services