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Cougars playing for championship

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

The Long Cane Cougars have already enjoyed one winning trip to Opelika.

If they do it again today, they’ll be the champions of their eight-team football league that features middle schools from Georgia and Alabama.

Long Cane finished the regular season as the league’s top team with a 6-1 record, and one of its wins came over Opelika.

The league was divided into two four-team divisions that were won by Long Cane and Opelika.

There will be a seventh-grade game at 5:30 p.m., with the eighth-grade championship game to follow.

“They’re a good football team. They’re very well-coached,” Long Cane coach Torre Pike said of Opelika. “They’ve got some great athletes. It’s just one of those things where we need to come out and play well. It’s like I’ve told the kids all year. The only team that beat us, is us.”

Long Cane started 6-0 before losing to Gardner Newman in its regular-season finale in West Point.

Despite that disappointment, it has still been a special season for the Cougars, who are attempting to win their second league championship in three years.

Lone Cane won a league title in 2016 before finishing second last year.

Pike said this group of players has been “awesome” to work with.

“I’ve got kids that live on the west side of LaGrange, I’ve got kids from Long Cane, I’ve got kids from Rosemont, and I’ve got kids from West Point,” Pike said. “When you see those kids from LaGrange and West Point become best friends, that’s what it’s about. It’s about those relationships and the memories that you create. This group is so different in so many aspects, but every one of them brings something to the table, and they play hard for each other.”

As for today’s game, Pike said it’ll come down to the team that stays rock solid when adversity strikes.

“When bad things happen, and bad things are going to happen, who can bounce back?,” Pike said. “Who can come back after getting punched in the mouth? When we fumble, or we throw a pick, can we bounce back? The team that bounces back after something bad happens is who’s going to win the ballgame.”

For many of the players, this will be their final middle-school game.

A year from now, many of the current eighth-graders will be freshmen at Troup High, and Pike is looking forward to seeing what they can accomplish on that level.

“That’s what it’s about,” Pike said. “That’s what I enjoy, is getting them ready to go play ball at Troup, and try to help Troup the next step and go win a state championship.”

Callaway and Gardner Newman have already completed their seasons.

Gardner Newman finished last in its division, but it closed the season with a flourish.

After beating Long Cane to finish the regular season, Gardner Newman got past Smiths Station 12-6 last week in a matchup featuring the league’s two fourth-place teams.

Callaway, which finished second in the league, lost to Auburn 20-12 on Wednesday.

Callaway’s seventh-grade team beat Auburn 30-14 to finish with a 7-1 record.