Southern aims for state, DHS continues quest for the best
Southern aims for state, DHS continues quest for the best
Shelby at Southern
On Friday night, the Shelby Academy Raiders will be battling the Southern Academy Cougars in the AISA championship game in Greensboro.
And according to Cougars head coach Shaun Bonds, defense is what has helped get them to this point.
“The key factor in our second round win was that we played great defense,” Bonds said. “They had those big backs and I thought our defense beat them. We stopped their running game and that forced them to throw the football. And, of course, we had two interceptions. We won the line battle on both sides. We blocked them and they didn’t block us and that was the difference.”
For the Raiders, an early lead helped propel them into the championship game – a rematch with the strong and talented Cougars.
“Well, I guess we got out to an early lead and that surely helped,” Raiders head coach DeWayne Kervin said. “Barry Harrison had about eight tackles and two interceptions on defense. Offensively, I would have to say Marcus Jones was a key factor. He was our leading rusher and scored our first touchdown and also blocked a punt.”
The Cougars’ Wallace Drury had another big game in the semi-finals, and according to coach Bonds, that had a big impact on his team’s victory.
“Wallace Drury had another big ball game,” Bonds said. “He returned a kick off, a punt return, another run for 61 yards, he caught a pass on the first drive for about 36 yards, and then he turned around and scored two times and kicked our extra points. Also, our offensive line, especially Wes Davis, had a tremendous game blocking. He was really a force inside. Defensively, we had a lot of guys that played well. Joey Christian played well and of course our secondary came out and played well. Our defensive ends have been good all year also. We did a real good job up front on defense. And our defense had some big interceptions. It was just a solid performance from all of our guys.”
A “solid performance” is what will be needed again if the Cougars expect to win it all.
“Last time we played these guys, we made all the plays and they didn’t make them,” Bonds said. “They were so close in watching the film and they just didn’t make them. First, we have to stop their running game. We’re going to have to put them in 2nd and long and 3rd and long. And then we have to find some ways to make big plays. The key match-ups I think will be with our lines. They are strong up front on both sides and we are too. Whoever wins that battle will probably win the ball game.”
So what to the Raiders need to do in order to pull an upset?
“Play hard and hope that Southern makes some mistakes and hope we don’t make any,” Kervin said. “If we can keep our mistakes down and they make a few, we have a chance.”
Demopolis at Trinity
As the Demopolis Tigers prepare for round three of the AHSAA Class 4A playoffs against the Trinity Wildcats, head coach Doug Goodwin is happy that his team has advanced this far.
Last week’s game against Thomasville was a hard-fought victory for Demopolis, as the Tigers won thanks in a large part to the team’s ability to throw the ball.
“I think if we hadn’t been able to throw the ball, we would have been in trouble,” Goodwin said. “Because we didn’t run-block them very well and, of course, their [Thomasville’s] quickness had a lot to do with that. I guess the field conditions and all had something to do with it. But I thought our ability to throw allowed us to score when we did early in the game. And then, our defense just made the plays when they had to when they got down close. The kids playing hard and getting after it and not giving up were all key factors in our win last week. It was hard to throw in the fog because the kids kept saying they couldn’t see the ball. I was really surprised we were able to throw it as well as we were.”
Demopolis will now advance to play the Wildcats and a chance to move into the semi-finals with a victory.
“I think our defensive line will have to put pressure on their quarterback and not let him have time to sit back there and throw,” Goodwin said. “Because they have got the number one prospect in the state at receiver, and he’ll be hard to stop if we sit back there and let him have all day to throw.”
This will be the Tigers first road game of the playoffs, but according to coach Goodwin, that’s a good thing.
“It’s the first road game of the playoffs, but I’m glad because I want to get off this field,” Goodwin said. “Because this field… I’m just tired of playing in slop.”
Wildcats head coach Randy Ragsdale believes his Wildcats have advanced this far due to mental efficiency more than anything else.
“I think the first thing is our mental efficiency. And I think that led to us being a little bit better on our execution. It was a team win for us,” Ragsdale said. “Some guys that probably stepped up and elevated their teammates play was Tim Trudel, our kicker, and our offensive tackle, Chase Fisher, played a great game. And I thought defensively overall, our starting 11 made very few mental mistakes. And I think that attributed to our team having a chance to play in this next round.”
According to coach Ragsdale, the Wildcats will have to block the Tigers front line if they expect to advance into the semi-finals.
“I think it’s going to be how effectively we can block their defensive front,” Ragsdale said. “They have some great players over there and with them playing like they are playing, it’s going to be tough. I think that’s going to be a key. And, can we limit Demopolis’ offense from making so many big plays. Third, the way we’re trying to approach it, is can we respond with some self control and some patience and play the game all the way though.”
So what has helped Demopolis to get this far?
“Just the ability to go out there and play hard all the time,” Goodwin said. “Even though, overall I didn’t think we played that great on Friday. We made enough plays when we had to have them to win. And I think our kids played hard the whole time, even though we didn’t play as well as we’d like to have played.”
Both the Tigers and the Wildcats have very strong teams, and coach Ragsdale discussed the two teams and their strengths.
“Our senior leadership is our greatest strength,” Ragsdale said. “It’s been a growing process, but that has been a consistent strength that has matured as they years have gone on. As far as Demopolis and their greatest strength, I’d say his [coach Goodwin’s] whole team,” Ragsdale said. “Their whole team has played at a high level every week. I think coach Goodwin has done a good job of motivating his staff and his team to play at an extremely dominating level. We’re just very excited to have the ability to compete against them.”
So what do the Wildcats need to do in order to top the undefeated Tigers?
“I think just being able to maintain an effective level through the game,” Ragsdale said. “That starts mentally and that translates physically. And being able to respond through sudden change. Have a good attitude about it and just play.”
According to coach Goodwin, his Tigers will have to do more than just “score more points” in order to advance in the postseason.
“Score more points than them, of course,” Goodwin said. “But, beyond that, I’d say trying to keep the ball away from them will probably be the biggest thing.”
Sweet Water at Loachapoka (quarterfinals)
On Friday night, the Sweet Water Bulldogs will be hitting the road for Loachapoka to battle the Indians in the quarterfinals of the AHSAA Class 1A playoffs.
And according to Bulldogs head coach Stacy Luker, “defense” was the key to making it to round three.
“Our defense was the key factor in our round two victory,” Luker said. “They stepped up the other night and we played a much better game than we did before. And that just set the tone for us.”
According to Indians head coach Jerome Tate, the Bulldogs greatest strength is their running game.
“They have a tough running game,” Tate said. “In fact, they have the best running game I have seen in my 23 years of coaching. It’s going to be tough to stop that.”
Although the Bulldogs run game is very tough, coach Luker believes his team’s greatest strength revolves around maturity.
“We don’t let a whole lot get to us,” Luke said. In these playoffs, we need to survive into the next round. Again, our greatest strength I would think is our maturity. I’ve said it all season long and I believe that. We handle situations well, no matter what the circumstance.”
And that factor in and of itself may be enough to get the Bulldogs to the semifinals.
But what does Loachapoka have to do to win?
“Flatten the tires on the bus before they get here,” Tate said. “That running game is awesome.”