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Mars Hill Bible’s Peyton Higgins nabs Week 5 AHSAA Spotlight

Brant Berry | PepsNet

AHSAA Football Spotlight for Week 5

Higgins Ties State Record for Career
Kickoff TDs in Mars Hill win over Cullman

Montgomery, AL – Mars Hill Bible kick return specialist Peyton Higgins returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown in last week’s 21-6 win over previously unbeaten Class 6A Cullman.

The shocking win was big for the Class 2A Panthers (4-1), who won the 2018 Class 1A state title and finished runner-up in 2019. Higgins’ kick return was a key play in the upset win and was the eighth of his prep career and the second this season. The eight kickoff returns for touchdowns ties the state record set by Florala’s Steven Reese from 1996-98 and thrust Higgins into the AHSAA Prep Football Spotlight this week.

The son of Mars Hill head coach Darrell Higgins, who totaled 192 all-purpose yards in the win, has been sparking the Panthers with his dazzling kickoff returns for the past three years. He had five returns for scores in his sophomore season in 2018 – kicking off Mars Hill’s first-ever state championship run with TD returns for scores in the first three games – an 87-yarder versus Sheffield, a 66-yard yard scoot versus Hackleburg and a 75-yard return versus Phillips. He closed out the season with a 93-yard kickoff return for a score in the final game of the regular season against Lexington and added a key 83-yard return for a score in the second round of the state playoffs that season to finish with five total – tying the state mark accomplished four other prep standouts: Javin Thatch of Tanner in 2011; Brandon Hale of Lexington in 1998; Jason Wilkins of Shelby County in 1997; and Florala’s Reese, also in 1997.

Higgins picked up his sixth touchdown return in 2019 with a 94-yard run back versus Phillips. The talented all-purpose back has also had six punt returns for touchdowns over his career with his latest coming in the Panthers’ win over Sheffield September 4 when he fielded a kick near mid-field and sped 51 yards for the score.

His career numbers are staggering despite the fact most schools try their best to kick away from him. In 37 career kickoff returns, he has gained 1,207 yards – and averaged 32.7 yards per return. In 35 punt returns, he has piled up 904 yards – and a 25.8-yard average over a 35-game span. Opponents kicked away from him in 12 games – leaving him with no returns in a third of the games he has participated in.

Higgins has also rushed for 3,188 career yards and 43 touchdowns, has had 38 catches for 544 yards and five touchdowns, and six career interceptions with another TD. His all-purpose yardage, with 436 touches, is 5,843 yards and 63 touchdowns – 13.4 yards per play. He has also thrown one TD pass.

Higgins edged out Alabama Christian quarterback Jalen Clark, who oud-dueled Saint James quarterback K.J. Jackson in ACA’s 47-41 Class 4A, Region 2 overtime win at Montgomery.

Clark was 12-of-19 passing for 277 yards and three touchdowns and also had 19 rush attempts for 206 yards and four TDs. He got the winning TD in the extra period on a 9-yard run. Damari Moore pulled in five passes for the Eagles (4-1) for 161 yards and four touchdowns.  Saint James’ Jackson also had a stellar passing performance with a 13-of-22 effort accumulating 264 yards and four scores. His four-TD passing effort was just the third in school history.

In other top performances reported from Week 5 action:

MILESTONES

WOODLAND SNAPS STREAK WITH WIN. Senior quarterback rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns to help send Woodland to its first win over rival Ranburne since 2011 with a 20-19 win. The victory snapped a nine-game losing streak. The Bulldogs still hold a 46-34-1 edge in the series that started in 1931. The winning Bobcats put together an eight-game winning streak from 2004-2011. The two East Alabama rivals have played every year since 1953 meeting twice in 1982 and in 1985.

ADRIANNE HERNANDEZ, ASHVILLE: Kicked a 41-yard field goal with three seconds left in regulation to lift Ashville to a 31-28 victory over St. Clair County. It was her varsity first-ever field goal attempt. 

ETHAN TEAL, DALE COUNTY: Dale County defensive back Ethan Teal returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown to complete a well-rounded effort as the Warriors downed Headland 45-18. He accounted for five touchdowns – two rushing, two passing and the rare 100-yard pick six and amassed 226 total yards on the night. Teal passed for 150 yards and rushed for 76 yards on offense.

JOSEPH McKAY, CENTRAL-PHENIX CITY: Red Devils’ running back Joseph McKay had 18 carries for 246 rushing yards in Central-Phenix City’s 21-19 win over Opelika. He scored on each of Central’s first two offensive plays in the second half – racing 90 yards for a TD on the first play and 61 yards for a TD on the second play. McKay also became the first Central back ever to have back-to-back games of 200-plus rushing yards for the Red Devils.

FLOMATON HAS FOUR RUSHERS OVER 100 YARDS: The Hurricanes, led by Peyton Sheets’ 138 yards rushing and two TDs on just three carries, beat state-line rival Jay (FL) 42-0 as Flomaton totaled 492 yards rushing and had four backs over 100 yards. Damerion Findley added 139 yards on 12 carries, Jaheem Durant and Travon Brown added 103 yards each in this rare football milestone.

PASSING

J.T. BLACKWOOD, HARTSELLE: Was 14-of-22 passing for 293 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-14 win over Russellville.

RYLEY KIRK, SPRING GARDEN: Completed 25-of-42 pass attempts for 291 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for two scores in the Panthers’ 42-28 setback at Hokes Bluff. It was the first meeting between the two schools and Spring Garden’s first loss this season.

IVERSON HOOKS, PIKE ROAD: Led the Patriots (6-0) to a 55-0 win over Tallassee with a 12-of-16 passing performance for 290 yards and five TDs.

MICHAEL RICH, SOUTHSIDE-GADSDEN: Completed 10-of-12 passes for 285 yards and four touchdowns (13, 73, 45 and 11 yards) in the Panthers’ 49-7 victory over Sardis.

HAL SMITHART, OPP: Was 17-of-25 passing for 260 yards and three touchdowns in Opp’s 41-20 win over Straughn.

BRADY KREUGER, ELBERTA: Passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns on a 10-of-16 passing performance and also rushed for 66 yards and three TDs on just seven attempts to total 302 yards and five scores in a 48-34 win over St. Michael Catholic.

BRANDON MUSCH, WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN: Completed 22-of-29 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns (39, 41 and 24 yards), and ran for 79 yards and two touchdowns (25 and 10 yards) in a 36-29 win over Lawrence County. His final 10-yard TD run came with four seconds left to give his team the win.

CONNER HARRELL, THOMPSON: Was 17-of-21 passing for 217 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Mountain Brook.

TUCKER KILCREASE, BRANTLEY: Completed 10-of-15 passes for 206 yards and four touchdowns for the Bulldogs (5-0) in a 48-12 win over Crenshaw County rival Highland Home.

BRAYDEN KYLE, DECATUR HERITAGE: Completed 5-of-7 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns and rushed four times for 154 yards and two more scores in a 47-14 win over Woodville.

CADE HOPPER, CHEROKEE COUNTY: Completed 8-of-9 pass attempts for 193 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-6 victory at Armuchee (GA).

BRENDON BYRD, SPANISH FORT: Passed for 138 yards and four touchdowns on a 12-of-15 passing performance to lead the Toros to a 43-6 win over Baldwin County.

RUSHING

LUKE HARRIS, ASHVILLE: Rushed for 301 yards on 37 carries in the Bulldogs’ 31-28 victory over St. Clair County.

JAYLEN GILBERT, ATHENS: Had 30 carries for 292 yards and four touchdowns (41, 3, 65 and 19 yards) as the Eagles outscored Hueytown 49-40.

CASON EUBANKS, NORTHSIDE METHODIST: The Knights’ quarterback rushed for 275 yards a touchdown and completed 4-of-9 pass attempts for 73 yards and another TD in a 37-34 win over Cottonwood.

DEUCE BELK, MARION COUNTY: Rushed for 267 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries and also passed for 80 yards and another score in the Red Raiders’ 39-27 win over Waterloo. His scoring runs covered 25, 66, 20 and 72 yards.

DEVONTAE CAUSEY, MILLRY: Rushed for 240 yards and five touchdowns in a 39-28 win over St. Luke’s Episcopal.

BRANDON ROBINSON, CARROLL: Rushed for 212 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 43-22 hard-fought setback to Enterprise.

BRAXTON BROOKS, SAMSON: Gained 201 yards rushing and three touchdowns and added a 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to pace the Tigers to a 56-12 win over Zion Chapel.

NOLAN FAIRLEY, GLENCOE: Finished with 276 total yards in Glencoe’s 27-21 overtime victory over Douglas. He rushed for 196 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries and completed 5-of-3 passes for 80 yards. 

AIDEN QUINN, RED BAY: Turned in a workhorse effort with 32 rush attempts for 199 yards and a touchdown in Red Bay’s 22-13 win over state-line rival Belmont (MS).

CARSON RICKELS, HAYDEN: The senior rushed for 191 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries in the Wildcats’ 43-35 win over West Point. He also had a 23-yard pass reception for a fifth TD and scored on a two-point conversion.
LEVI BERRYHILL, LEXINGTON: Had 15 carries for 179 yards and three touchdowns as Lexington beat Elkmont 63-14.

KELSTON FIKES, LEROY: Totaled 19 carries for 174 yards and all four Leroy touchdowns in a 29-20 win over Sweet Water.

DREW PICKETT, HOLTVILLE: Ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns and teammate Braxton Buck passed for 135 yards and two more scores as the Bulldogs beat Marbury 33-14 to improve to 5-1 for their best season start since 1993.

LOGAN PATE, GUNTERSVILLE: The junior running back rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 44-10 win over Madison County. He also threw a 49 yard touchdown pass in the win.

LOGAN WEEKS, WINFIELD: Had 10 carries for 142 yards and four touchdowns in the Pirates’ 52-20 win over Brilliant. He scored on runs of 9, 13, 2 and 61 yards.

J.D. PETTWAY. COTTAGE HILL CHRISTIAN: Rushed 23 times for 139 yards and three touchdowns and had seven pass receptions for 72 yards and two TDs at Cottage Hill downed LeFlore 35-29.

RECEIVING

NYNY DAVIS, ETOWAH: Totaled 11 pass receptions for 176 yards and a TD in the Blue Devils 35-21 loss to Fort Payne.

TRAVIS SMYTHE, ELBERTA: Had four catches for 150 yards and two TDs in a 48-34 win over St. Michael Catholic.

COOPER AUSTIN, SPRING GARDEN: Caught seven passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns and added an interception on defense in the Panthers’ 42-28 loss at Hokes Bluff.

BLAKE DURHAM, PIKE ROAD: Had five catches for 141 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-0 win over Tallassee.

WHIT JOHNSON, CHEROKEE COUNTY: Accumulated 201 all-purpose yards in the Warriors’ 56-6 win at Armuchee (GA) Saturday. He caught five passes for 132 yards and a touchdown, and also had a 69-yard punt return for a score.

ZACCHEAUS LINDSEY, OPP: Caught five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown in the Bobcats’ 41-20 win over Straughn.

JAYLEN NOBLES, SLOCOMB: Caught four passes for 100 yards with a touchdown, rushed for three touchdowns and 69 yards on 11 carries, completed his only pass attempt for eight yards and added an interception and three tackles on defense in the Red Tops’ 35-20 win over Ariton.

ROBERT WOODYARD, WILLIAMSON: Had six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in a 30-0 Lions win over Charles Henderson.

DEFENSE

RYAN SCOTT, WESTBROOK CHRISTIAN: Returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown and teammate Deacon Godfrey recovered a fumble in the end zone for another Warriors TD in a 21014 win over Class 4A Randolph.

HUNTER TUCKER, WEST END: Recorded 14 tackles, with six resulting in lost yardage, in West End’s 41-16 win over Appalachian. He also forced a fumble. Teammate Ashton Self also had 13 tackles and Trevor Willett had 10.

ABE CHANCELLOR, PROVIDENCE CHRISTIAN: Had two interceptions, one ending Elba’s last scoring opportunity, and also recovered a fumble and made six tackles in a 27-20 win over the Tigers.

HARRISON MIMS, PROVIDENCE CHRISTIAN: Totaled 15 tackles in the Eagles’ 27-20 win at Elba.

BRILEY MITCHELL, GAYESVILLE: Had nine tackles, including three for losses, and had two sacks in the Trojans’ 40-14 win over the Alabama School for the Deaf.

SPECIAL TEAMS

DEMARCUS LACEY, PLEASANT GROVE: Returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, had TD runs of 70 and 7 yards and had a 61-yard TD on a pass reception as the Spartans beat defending Class 5A state champion Central of Clay County in a rematch of the 2019 state finals.

BRODY CAMPBELL, SLOCOMB: Blocked a key field goal try by Arition, made an interception, broke up three other passes and finished with seven stops as the Red Tops beat Ariton 35-20.

MALACHI HORTON, CHEROKEE COUNTY: Returned a kickoff 67 yards and a punt 57-yards for touchdowns in a 56-6 win over Armuchee (GA).

TAMARKUS JUDKINS, CENTER POINT: Blocked a punt and returned the kick 20 yards for a touchdown, had three pass receptions and a 2-point pass catch as the Eagles beat Anniston 24-22.