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In the NFL over the last few years, there has been no bigger rivalry than the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, with both teams having faced each other in high profile regular season and playoff games.
On Friday at 8:00 p.m., that rivalry will take on new meaning as the Birmingham Patriots (12-1) and Carson Colts (11-2) will face each other in the Coliseum for the City Championship.
Since league play started, Birmingham and Carson have been the two best teams in the City and their road towards getting here have gone through similar paths.
Both teams feature strong running backs (Birmingham’s Milton Knox and Carson’s Jack Sula) and athletic defenses. Both also clinched their spots by beating Coliseum League teams on sloppy field conditions.
While Carson won a 6-0 squeaker over Dorsey, Birmingham rolled over Crenshaw 42-6. Both Sula (195 yards) and Knox (192 yards) had big games for their teams but it was the defenses that perhaps made the loudest statements.
For Dorsey, they had two first-and-goal situations in the game and despite going for it on fourth down each time; they could not reach the end zone.
Birmingham, meanwhile, shut down the Cougars running game and although quarterback Cameron Hart had 174 passing yards, he went 11-for-35 and was sacked five times.
Although Crenshaw and Dorsey had to watch their season end on the same night, they surprised many observers who did not expect them to get this far. The Coliseum League may have had a down year overall, but both teams had few reasons to hang their heads after valiant efforts to restore pride to their seasons.
“I’m really proud of how far our team came. They dug down and played their behinds off the whole game,” Dorsey head coach Paul Knox said afterwards.
Both teams will no doubt be back strong next year, especially Crenshaw who called up 12 players from their junior varsity team that went 11-1 while allowing only 12 points all year.
But the season goes on for Birmingham and Carson. The Colts will be making their first appearance in the title game since 2003 while the defending champion Patriots will be going for their third title in four years.
Over their last seven games, the Patriots have steamrolled all challengers, scoring a combined 386 points while allowing only 27. In fact, they have won all but one game this year by double digits, the exception being a 28-21 victory over Sherman Oaks Notre Dame on Sept. 20.
Carson, meanwhile, has battled through the City’s toughest league in the Marine League. While the Patriots have won games with overwhelming speed and athleticism, the Colts have won games behind the blue-collar efforts of Sula (1,786 yards) and a physical defense that makes teams work for every yard.
They’ll have their hands full with Knox, who has rushed for 2,031 yards —his second consecutive season over 2,000 yards—and 36 touchdowns. In the playoffs, he has averaged 218 yards a game.
Despite the chance of possibly playing for a state championship, the Patriots are focused on the mission at hand, which is to become the first team to repeat as City champs since San Pedro in 1996 and 1997.
It’s shaping up to be a classic game at the Coliseum as either the Colts will record one of the biggest upsets in City history or the Patriots will stake their claim as one of the best City teams in recent memory.