By Will Heath, For The Tribune
LEEDS — Sixth-ranked Leeds got two touchdowns from its defense to key a 41-22 victory over Lee-Huntsville on Friday night in the first round of the AHSAA Class 5A playoffs.
The win is the 10th for Leeds in 2021, and sets up a trip to Pleasant Grove, ranked No. 2 in Class 5A, in the second round.
On Friday, the Leeds defense forced the Generals into four turnovers Friday, adding a blocked field goal in the victory.
“We just kept faith in God, and we just did our thing,” said Leeds senior Jonathan Douglas.
It was Douglas who scored the Green Wave’s first defensive TD of the night. With his team protecting a 13-0 lead late in the first half, Douglas jumped in front of a pass from Lee’s Antony Matthews, returning it 24 yards for a 20-0 lead.
“I kept seeing them throw the hitch, and I was just sitting on it,” Douglas said. “I saw the quarterback’s eyes and I went and got it.”
To open the second half, the Leeds defense did it again. This time, Lee’s Isiah Vandenberghe fumbled, and the Green Wave’s Kavion Henderson scooped up the ball and rumbled 40 yards for a touchdown that made it 27-8.
“He’s (Henderson) got to quit carrying it like Walter Payton,” Leeds head coach Jerry Hood said. “I was proud of both of them.”
Those two scores helped Leeds (10-1) fend off a stiff challenge from the Generals (5-6), who controlled the football for most of the game and finished with 290 yards of total offense. The Green Wave made the most of its opportunities on offense, getting 135 yards and two touchdowns on the ground from senior Rametrius Yelverton. Fellow senior Joshua Ruff added 26 yards rushing and 28 yards receiving, and caught a touchdown pass from Jarod Latta late in the second quarter. Latta finished with 78 yards through the air.
Vandenberghe was the leader for Lee’s offense, with 120 yards rushing and receiving. He scored two touchdowns on the ground, and threw a pass for a conversion.
Still, the story for the Generals on Friday was one of missed opportunities. Lee’s first possession of the game ended in a fumble near midfield, and the second advanced all the way to the Leeds 6-yard line, but a 20-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Leeds would intercept the Generals again in the third quarter, as Demarion Keenan picked off Matthews on fourth down at the Leeds 32.
“We did decent,” Lee head coach Irving McGuire said. “We didn’t finish drives like we’re supposed to.”
Leeds staked itself to an early lead thanks to two field goals from junior Jackson Arthur. His first came from 45 yards away, which Hood said is his career long.
“Probably one of the longest in Leeds history,” he said.
Hood called his team’s second-round opponent “one of the greatest teams in Alabama.” The Spartans were the champs of Region 5, and defeated first-round opponent Douglas, 55-0.
“We’ll see if we can’t give them a little bit of a game,” Hood said.
For now, though, fans in green were content to celebrate the moment.
“We’re happy to be 10-1,” Hood said. “Happy to see our kids playing this time of year. Proud for Leeds.
“We’re down to … how many different teams are left? 16? That’s a good place to be in Alabama.”
Leeds will travel to face Pleasant Grove on Friday at 7 p.m.