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Updated: December 22, 2017

A journey that started under the hot August sun was completed last week on Friday, December 15, as the Foreman Gators defeated the Mount Ida Lions, 24-21, for the Class AA State Championship at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. The Gators end the season with an overall record of 13-1.

By Quinton Bagley

Little River News

History was made the night of Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock as the Foreman Gators won their first state championship in football with a 24-21 victory over the Mount Ida Lions.

“I thought it was a great football game between two great teams,” Foreman head coach Mark King said. “I thought our kids played an outstanding game. We overcame two turnovers and played with a lot of heart all night long.


Foreman’s Kaleb Kegley (50) and Darian Groves (52) wall off a Mount Ida defender giving teammate Kyren Batey (5) plenty of room to run during last week;s Class AA State Championship game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Batey rushed for 211 yards,two touchdowns and blocked a field goal to help the Gators to a 24-21 victory and their first ever state championship in football. Batey was named the game’s MVP.

“Our kids did something to Mount Ida that nobody had done all year – we were more physical than they were for four quarters,” King continued. “When we fumbled on the third play of the game and our defense stepped up and stopped them on three plays and our offense scored on one play our kids believed then that they could beat Mount Ida.”

King said he was impressed with how physical and confident Foreman played all night.

“I was very impressed with how physical our kids played all night, especially on defense,” King said. “Our defense really played outstanding in the second half, shutting their offense down. I thought our kids played with a lot of confidence and swagger all night.”

Turnovers were a big part of the Gators’ loss when they faced the Lions during the regular season and when Foreman fumbled on the third play of the game Friday night it may have seemed like déjà vu to some Gator fans but not for King or his team.

Foreman’s Sam Gamble kicks a long extra point following a penalty during Friday’s Class AA State Championship game at War Memorial Stadium. Gamble kicked three extra points and a 30-yard field goal. He also recovered an on-side kick by Mount Ida that ended any hopes the Lions had of a come back.

“As far as déjà vu after the first fumble it never entered my mind,” King said. “I knew that our kids were going to play their butts off all night. Our defense has been outstanding all year long and they saved their best for the last game.

“They played a good game the first time we played Mount Ida, but the offense didn’t help them out in that game. We had too many turnovers and left our defense on the field way too long. I thought we played a very balanced game the second time and our offense and defense made plays when they needed to.”

Foreman scored first Friday night and never trailed. The first score came with 9:08 to play in the first quarter as Kyren Batey broke a long run for the score. Sam Gamble added the extra point to give the Gators a 7-0 lead.

The Lions (14-1) answered on a 23-yard run by Cade Helms with 7:44 to play in the first quarter. The PAT was good and the game was tied, 7-all.

Foreman’s Chase Boyd put the Gators back on top with 4:04 to play in the first quarter on a 13-yard run. Gamble’s extra point was good to give Foreman a 14-7 lead.

Mount Ida’s Jonathan Lagrange pulled the Lions within one on a short run for the score. The PAT was good and with 1:39 to play in the first quarter, the score was once again tied, 14-all.

Gamble scored the only points in the second quarter with a 30-yard field goal to give Foreman a 17-14 lead with 5:11 to play in the first half. The Gators would carry that lead into the halftime locker room.

The second half was a defensive juggernaut as neither team could find the end zone until late in the fourth quarter.

With 3:39 to play in the game, Batey scored on a 20-yard run. Gamble’s extra point gave Foreman a 24-14 lead.

Mount Ida was not done. On their next possession the Lions marched down the field with their passing game to score a touchdown with 2:10 to play in the contest. The PAT was good and Foreman led 24-21.

Gamble recovered the on-side kick attempt of Mount Ida and a couple of first downs later the Gators were able to run out the clock and clinch the 2017 Class AA State Championship.

Foreman finished the game with 336 yards of total offense on 41 plays and 14 first downs. Mount Ida finished the game with 360 yards of total offense on 67 plays and 14 first downs.

Foreman’s Batey was named the game’s MVP.

King said it was a great feeling being state champions.

“It feels great to say Foreman Gators State Champions,” King said. “I can’t really describe the feeling, but I really like the sound of it. It’s something we talked about the first day I walked in the locker room and talked to the kids when I got the job.”

A state championship is more than a trophy on display in the gym lobby. It is a sense of pride and acknowledgement for all the hard work it took to make it possible. It also gives the community something to be proud of as well.

“I feel that with this being the first ever football state championship it means the world to the school and community,” King said. “I know that both have wanted success and a championship for a long time. I know that the community takes a lot of pride in their school and athletic teams and this championship is as much for the community as it is for the kids. We have the best fans in the state if you ask me. They have been behind our program since I have been here.”

With the win, the Gators finished the season 13-1. Those 13 wins equal the combined win total for the Gators from 2010-15 before the arrival of King in 2016. The foundation of this state championship team was not laid in August when fall camp began but more than a year ago when King meet with the Gators for the first time as head coach.

“I told the kids on my first day as their coach that if they will trust me and believe in me, our coaches and each other that great thing would happen for them,” King said. “I told them that our goal every year will be to win a state championship. To do that, they had to believe, be disciplined and do the little things.”

King gives last year’s seniors a lot of credit for this year’s success.

“The seniors from 2017 are a big reason that we were able to win a state championship this season,” King said.  “I was their fourth coach in four years and it would have been real easy for them to not believe in me and not trust me, but they bought in, believed and had a great season going 8-4 and making it to the second round of the playoffs.

“Our younger kids saw that and picked up where they left off,” King continued. “They saw what could be accomplished with hard work and trust and here we are today state champions!”

Like the senior class of 2017, this year’s senior class has carried the program to another level and will always be remembered for their accomplishments on the field.

“Our current seniors picked up right where last years seniors left off and they have built from the foundation that last years seniors set,” King said. “They have shown our younger kids what it takes to succeed. This group of seniors has a great work ethic that hopefully has rubbed of on the underclassmen. They have made a legacy for themselves and will forever be remembered as the first ever state football champions at Foreman High School. I could not have asked for a better group of young men!”