Kingwood comes up short in AISA semifinal

Kingwood's C'Yontai Lewis (No. 8) attempts to tackle a Bessemer Academy ballcarrier in a 35-7 loss in the AISA semifinals Nov. 15. (Contributed/Diane Cunnignham)

Kingwood’s C’Yontai Lewis (No. 8) attempts to tackle a Bessemer Academy ballcarrier in a 35-7 loss in the AISA semifinals Nov. 15. (Contributed/Diane Cunnignham)

By TREY HICKMAN/For the Reporter

BESSEMER — There was ample emotional fuel for the Nov. 15 matchup between the Kingwood Lions and the Bessemer Academy Rebels in the semifinals portion of the AISA Class AAA playoffs.

For one thing, the winner would punch its ticket to the Class AAA state championship game. Second, the Lions had made history a week earlier with the first postseason win in school history. Last, the November 15 matchup would give Kingwood Christian a chance to deliver a bit of payback after having lost to the Rebels early in the season.

Unfortunately for Kingwood Christian, the rematch rendered the same verdict.

Thanks in part to a ground game bolstered by a steady diet of running back Noah Napier as well as two touchdown passes from quarterback Lucas Vining, the host Rebels did more than enough damage in the first half and ultimately ousted Kingwood Christian from the playoffs with a 35-7 win.

Napier gradually punished the Lions’ defense and notched a 1-yard touchdown run, while Vining tossed a 14-yard score to both Matt Kyker and Justin Pratt. Running back Brandon Cook accounted for the Rebels’ fourth and final touchdown of the opening half when he found the end zone from 37 yards out, and Bessemer Academy entered intermission up 28-0.

Things didn’t get much better for Kingwood Christian after the break, though the Lions avoided a shutout when safety C’Yontai Lewis scooped up a Bessemer Academy fumble and returned the miscue for a 69-yard score.

For the night, the Rebels turned in a noteworthy effort on both sides of the ball, though Kingwood Christian was hurt by penalties and the loss of four offensive-line starters due to injury, with one starter out headed into the game and three others lost during the course of the contest.

“You have to give a lot of credit to Coach Wright and Bessemer (Academy),” said Kingwood Christian head coach Steve Birmingham. “They are always tough, but we would love to have won the game but we don’t have near the depth we need. But banner season, to the final four, semifinals. It was a banner year for Kingwood.”

Offensively for the Lions, quarterback Gavin Sumrall competed 6-of-10 passes for 53 yards, Montez Haynes had two catches for 33 yards and Jonathon Faulkner logged 24 yards on six carries.

Kingwood Christian defensive back Tyler Byrd, who entered the game tied for the national lead among all sophomores (regardless of team classification) with 164 total tackles, led the Lions’ defense with 20 total tackles. Cornerback Montez Haynes had 19 total tackles, followed by defensive lineman Tyler Mills, who finished with 14.

Kingwood Christian ended its season 9-4 while Bessemer Academy (12-1) moves on to the AISA Class AAA state championship game in Troy Nov. 22.