The (9-1, 4-1) Alexandria Senior High Trojans proved they were a Top 3 team in Class 5A by bullying an overmatched (6-4, 1-4) West Ouachita club in a 35-13 Thursday night win, but the biggest story of the night had little to do with the actual game or playoff implications that followed.
At the 9:26 mark in the fourth quarter, the game was halted after Chiefs linebacker Luke Middleton, son of head coach Matt Middleton, collided with an ASH player and suffered a head injury. Luke was transported by ambulance to the hospital and released the following day.
It was undoubtedly the scariest moment of Matt’s life.
“He’s better, but it was a really scary deal,” Middleton said. “It wasn’t a spinal injury. That’s what we thought when the contact happened. It knocked him completely out cold and he had no movement at all. He was out for four minutes. When he came to, he still couldn’t move. It wasn’t until about 20 minutes after where he started to move his hands and feet. He came to about 11:30 that night. And there were no fractures, which is a Godsend. We’re blessed.”
An oversimplification of Luke’s injury is a really bad concussion, which he’s still recovering from.
Luke will travel with his team for the rematch against No. 3 Alexandria Friday night when the No. 30 West Ouachita Chiefs make their 5A playoff debut.
“For us, this is as big as it gets right now, no matter how you slice it or dice it,” Middleton said. “The school didn’t make the playoffs in ’97 or ’98, so this is the first time in school history we’ve had a 5A playoff berth. I couldn’t be more proud of these kids.”
Middleton was also grateful to ASH head coach Thomas Bachman for encouraging the game to end after Luke’s injury and praying with the team.
“That’s a class act program,” Middleton said. “He’s a great man, and we’re very appreciative of his support.”
The game being called with nine minutes remaining resulted in a 35-13 loss for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs opened up the contest in a familiar fashion. With a nine-play drive, the Chiefs ate up nearly half of the clock in the first quarter before Luke Stagg drilled a 41-yard field goal, giving West Ouachita a 3-0 advantage.
Unfortunately ASH controlled the rest of the contest.
ASH answered quickly with a five-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in a Jarvis Newton 23-yard touchdown run. That score set the tone for a big offensive night for the Trojans.
ASH passed for 196 yards and rushed for 218 in the victory, while West Ouachita was held to 160 total yards in the contest. ASH quarterback Judd Barton was 11-of-14 for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
“Before Luke’s injury, he had 20 tackles, and that tells you how we had to keep making tackles in open space down the field,” Middleton said. “They are the real deal. They are worthy of all the hype they get. They got it to their playmakers in space and made us pay.”
Tobias Owens led the Chiefs with 94 yards on 19 carries.