Citronelle quarterback Justin Adams tries to break past two Elberta defenders Friday night in Citronelle. (Bonita Roberts/Call News)
Citronelle coach Jason Rowell led the Wildcats to a big turnaround in his first season. They defeated five teams they lost to in 2022. (Bonita Roberts/Call News)
By PATRICK DARRINGTON
CITRONELLE — Quarterback Justin Adams concluded his Citronelle career with 166 yards on 14 carries to spark a 35-24 victory over Elberta Friday night as the Wildcats finished with a winning season for the first time since 2019.
“Kudos to these seniors for leading this team,” said Citronelle coach Jason Rowell, who directed the Wildcats to a 6-4 finish in his first season. “They ain’t won but seven football games their whole career (until this year) and they won six this season. And all we asked them to do is build a foundation for us and those guys have done a great job of building that. The future is very bright here.”
Adams ran 2 yards for a touchdown and threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Landen Snow as Citronelle scored a season-high 35 points, the most the Wildcats have scored since beating Washington County High 37-7 in the 2019 season opener.
Citronelle also went undefeated at home (4-0) for the first time since 1990 under coach Ronny Massey.
The Wildcats have had only eight winning seasons in the last quarter century but the 2023 season marked a huge turnaround from a 1-9 finish a year ago.
Citronelle defeated five teams it lost to in 2022 — Millry, Bryant, Faith Academy, Williamson and Elberta — and the turnaround represented a 119-point swing. The Wildcats lost to those five teams in 2022 by a combined 134-76, then beat them by a combined 142-81 this season.
Adams and his fellow seniors feel they have played a key part in the revival of Citronelle football.
“It feels good laying down the foundation for the upcoming football team in the future,” Adams said. “I hope we had a positive impact on them and that they continue to try to turn this thing around and continue with a winning tradition.”
Cornerback Jarius Benjamin said the winning season was the culmination of the hard work he and his teammates put in together.
“Man, it feels great,” Benjamin said. “We’ve been grinding and working every day and every summer. We just came out here and did what he had to do.”
Linebacker Bradyn Rivers said he was appreciative of Rowell’s coaching and what could turn out to be this senior class’s positive role in program history.
“It feels great to start some sort of legacy,” Rivers said. “It feels good to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. I just wanted to say thank you to coach Rowell because he gave us something to play for. He gave us a feeling of what it felt like to win and I just appreciate it.”
The Wildcats finished 4-4 in 5A Region 1.