Linden captures Class 1A State Championship
TUSCALOOSA – Linden High School’s Patriots walked into Bryant-Denny Stadium as a school that had never won an AHSAA football championship.
Not anymore, thanks in big part to senior defensive lineman Jamarcus Williams.
Williams tipped the ball to himself for an interception and returned it 18 yards for a third-quarter touchdown and added a 5-yard scoop-and-score fumble recovery for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff. His two touchdowns – one on defense and one on special teams in a span of less than 10 seconds – supplied the biggest plays as Linden (15-0) earned a 32-8 victory over Pickens County (11-4) in Thursday’s 2020 AHSAA Super 7 Class 1A State Football Championship Game at Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Williams’ heroics helped Linden, coached by Travis Lockett, capture the school’s first AHSAA state football title after finishing runner-up in 2011 and 2018. Linden built a 14-8 halftime lead and pulled away by scoring three quick third-quarter touchdowns, despite a sputtering offense that produced just 182 yards against the Tornadoes’ tenacious defense.
“That was the turning point in this game,” Lockett said when asked about Williams’ third-quarter touchdowns. “All credit to Pickens County. They had a great defensive plan to take away our strengths. Us being able to get turnovers, especially in the second half, gave us the momentum.”
The 25th Super 7 Championships continue with one more game tonight: Pleasant Grove vs. St. Paul’s Episcopal in Class 5A at 7:30 p.m. Championship games for Classes 2A, 4A and 6A are set for Friday. All games are being televised by WOTM TV, the producer of the AHSAA TV Network, and are being live-streamed over the NFHS Network.
Pickens County, coached by Michael Williams, fell one win shy of winning its first state title since 2013. Williams is a Pickens County graduate who played on national title teams at Alabama in 2009, 2010 and 2013 and caught a TD pass in the 2013 BCS national title game.
Linden handed the Tornadoes two losses of their four losses this season. The other was a 36-0 victory in both schools’ season opener on Aug. 28.
“(We had too many turnovers. We didn’t protect the ball,” Pickens County coach Michael Williams said.
Linden opened the scoring with a six-play, 75-yard drive in the first quarter capped by quarterback Joshua Williams’ 1-yard touchdown run to give the Patriots a 6-0 lead. Pickens County answered later in the first quarter when Javion Belle connected with Kajaveion Byrd for a 13-yard touchdown pass, and Xerrance Washington’s 2-point run gave the Tornadoes the lead 8-6 with 3:23 to go in the first quarter.
Linden took the lead back for good before halftime when Savion McIntosh caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Joshua Williams with 57 seconds to go before intermission. Williams hooked up with a Tim Thurman on the 2-point pass for a 14-8 halftime lead.
The Patriots took control during a 67-second span in the third quarter. Zelly Aldridge scored on 3-yard run with 4:42 to go, and Jamarcus Williams returned his interception 18 yards for a touchdown with 3:51 to go for a 26-8 lead.
Then, on the ensuing kickoff, the 5-foot-11, 245-pound senior defensive lineman stripped the ball and picked it up for a 5-yard scoop-and-score fumble return to give the Patriots a 32-8 lead with 3:34 remaining in the third quarter.
“Jamarcus had an excellent game today,” Lockett said, “and just showed his capability and his athletic ability.”
Linden also appeared to have a 95-yard interception return for another touchdown later in the game, but it was nullified by a penalty.
The Patriots limited Pickens County to just 121 yards on 62 plays, including minus-30 yards rushing on 37 carries, and forced three turnovers. Tyrik Daniels led the Linden defense with six tackles and 3½ of the Patriots’ eight sacks. Jamarcus Williams has 4.5 tackles, three sacks and four tackles for a loss.
Linden managed just 182 yards of total offense, with Aldridge collecting 43 yards rushing on 11 carries. Joshua Williams finished 5-of-8 passing for 90 yards.
Byrd caught eight passes for 121 yards for Pickens County and scored the Tornadoes’ only touchdown. He also led the defense with 8½ tackles. Bell finished 12-for-25 passing for 151 yards.