Andalusia has been without standout running back J'Marion Burnette for the final two weeks of the playoffs, including Friday's AHSAA Class 4A championship game against Cherokee County. Both times, they placed Dorian Crittenden in the backfield and let him run wild.

On Friday, on the biggest stage of the season, Crittenden carried the football 31 times for 246 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-7 win over Cherokee County at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Last week, Crittenden rushed for 215 yards in a semifinal win over previously unbeaten Montgomery Catholic. Andalusia was making its first championship game appearance since going 1-1-1 in consecutive appearances from 1975-77. The Bulldogs played like seasoned veterans under long-time high school head coach Trent Taylor.

"I simply told them not to pay attention to the scoreboard," said Taylor, who is in his eighth season at Andalusia and 35th overall as a high school head coach. "Just play. Just play every play. Every play has its own identity. Dorian has started on defense all year long. Him and J'Marion have worked together all year long, and a lot of guys had to step up."

A big key for Andalusia on defense was limiting the success of Cherokee County running back Jacob Cornejo, who rushed for more than 1,100 yards in the first four playoff games. On Friday, Cornejo, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior, had 87 yards on 18 carries and rushed for his team's lone touchdown.

On the other side, giving the ball to Crittenden was the best option. Both of Crittenden's touchdown runs came in the second half. In the first half, Andalusia scored on a 7-yard run by Zerrick Jones and a 34-yard pass from Jack Lathrop to Kaden Denson.

Cherokee County made its fifth trip to the state championship game. The only win came in 2009.

"A lot of thanks to my seniors, saying goodbye to those guys is tough," said Cherokee County coach Jacob Kelley. "It's been a good year, and I told this town be ready to roll. These guys went to work in the off-season. From day one, it's been a ride. They allow us to love them and coach them. It's a big family. A lot of guys are coming back, and that is exciting to me. Andalusia has a great team and did what they needed to do to win."

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