FYFFE — Still undefeated.
Fyffe took all the haymakers Collinsville’s defense could throw and used its own brand of aggressive defense to shut out the Panthers 21-0 in the semifinal round of the Class 2A state playoffs Friday night, advancing to a second straight state championship game.
“It was a tough football game tonight,” Fyffe coach Paul Benefield said. “It was tough last time. (The Panthers) are all we can handle every time we play them.”
Fyffe (14-0) overcame a defensive front seven that reads opposing offenses well. Collinsville (12-2) held the Red Devils to a season-low 21 points in the second meeting of the year between the Region 8 rivals. Fyffe won the last game 24-3 on Sept. 13.
Zach Pyron threw for 112 yards, rushed for 92 yards and a score, and Ike Rowell had 102 yards receiving with 55 yards rushing and two TDs for the Red Devils, who play Reeltown (13-1) in the Class 2A state championship game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn next Friday.
“We’re thankful to have a blessed season like we’ve had,” Rowell said.
The Red Devils are back in the AHSAA Super 7 for the fifth time in 6 years (2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019). They’ll defend their title against Reeltown, who beat Leroy 29-28 in overtime to advance Friday night.
“It’s awesome being able to go back to state for a second straight year and trying to win this one,” Pyron said. “We wouldn’t be in this position without the Lord on our side, watching us this year.”
Fyffe’s defense earned its ninth shutout win of the season.
Kaleb Jones finished with 120 yards passing for the Panthers, with top target Michael Tucker having 80 yards receiving.
“(Benefield) went a little deeper in his playbook tonight,” Panthers coach Ernie Willingham said. “He goes pretty deep in his playbook when he plays us.”
The Red Devils scored on their first two drives. They marched 80 yards in 10 plays and scored on their opening possession. Pyron ran the ball in from 1 yard out, but the touchdown call was overturned and brought up third-and-goal. Rowell capped the drive on the ensuing play, diving across the goal line for the score with 7:22 remaining in the opening quarter.
Pyron hit Rowell along the left side for a 46-yard pickup during Fyffe’s second possession. Rowell finished off the drive six plays later with a 2-yard scoring run to make it 14-0 with 11:56 left in the first half.
“We knew Collinsville was going to be good. We just tried to take our big shots when we could,” Rowell said.
Collinsville reached Fyffe’s 33-yard line on its second possession. Tucker had runs of 11 and 18 yards, before Fyffe’s Eli Benefield bulldozed his way up the middle and met Jones at the line of scrimmage on a fourth-down run, forcing a turnover on downs with 9 minutes left.
“(Fyffe’s) defense is just out of sight this year,” Willingham said. “I’m proud of them too.”
Jonathan Blake met Jones at the line of scrimmage for a tackle on a third-and-8 play that forced the Panthers to punt with 17 seconds to play in the half.
“As badly fatigued as we looked, I said, ‘I’m sure they’re fatigued too,’” Benefield said during halftime. “We were up by 14, so if we went out in the first 6 minutes of the third quarter and held them, we would be in good shape.”
Just as Benefield hoped, Fyffe’s defense responded well to start the second half, forcing the Panthers to punt on both offensive possessions of the third.
Pyron capped a 56-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown run to the left side with 10:04 remaining in the game.
“Since we already played (the Panthers) once, finding different things to work against their defense was a challenge,” Pyron said.
Will Stephens sacked Jones on Collinsville’s ensuing drive, but Fyffe was penalized twice during the possession, allowing the Panthers to reach the 4-yard line.
With the Panthers in their best scoring position of the night, Fyffe’s defense made sure they left scoreless. Will Gillilan broke up a fourth-down pass at the near-right pylon and preserved the shutout with 6:04 left.
“I thought I was going to intercept it,” Gillilan said. “I didn’t see anybody in front of me. When I went to catch it, the ball was knocked out of my hands.”
Fyffe plays Reeltown in the Super 7 at 3 p.m. Friday.