November 21, 2012 4:45:49 PM
Can you keep up?
That's the question opponents face when they take on the Pickens County High School football team and its up-tempo offense.
This season, especially in the playoffs, teams haven't been able to keep pace. Pickens County (10-2) enters Friday's home playoff match against Berry (8-4) coming off two dominant postseason performances. It opened the postseason by beating Falkville 64-0 and routed Cedar Bluff 34-0 for its fourth and fifth shutouts of the season.
The train doesn't plan on slowing down this week, particularly at home.
"I've been ready to play at home since I knew we were gonna win our last game," running back Jermarcus Brown said. "We feel like our offense is playing at a really high level. We can run any of our plays we want because we have a good line, good skill players, and coaching. You never know what we're going to do."
Brown said he watches his favorite college team -- the University of Oregon -- and tries to emulate their speed-based, no-huddle attack. In the past two games, he has done a pretty good rendition of the Ducks' attack. Brown had 186 yards against Falkville and 286 yards against Cedar Bluff.
With a rematch against Berry looming Friday in the third round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 1A playoffs, Brown can't help but think about his previous success against Wildcats.
"I had five touchdowns in that game," he said. "But it's the playoffs, so we expect a tougher game."
Under coach Patrick Plott, the Tornadoes have run their up-tempo offense for the past two seasons. That doesn't mean it's easy, however. Plott said the team does its summer workouts at a similar pace and spends much of the preseason working to get players conditioned for it.
"By Week 3, we were used to it," Plott said. "We're essentially running the same plays, just more efficiently."
While skill-position players become acclimated with the conditioning quickly, the linemen, many of whom play both ways, take a bit longer. But this season, the line has excelled and has grown stronger as the season has progressed, Brown said.
"They're the reason we're playing at this level," he said. "I gotta give all the credit to those guys."
Offensive lineman Terrien Steele said players become even more motivated when they notice opponents become gassed.
"You can see it in the second quarter," he said. "When we see that, we want to turn it up even more. We are so much better with our hands and technique now than we were earlier this season, and even last year. We have a lot of confidence right now."
The Tornadoes beat the Wildcats 49-22 in a region matchup earlier this season. And though Plott doesn't have to verbalize the increased effort and intensity of a playoff game, he does. Berry has given up an average of 10 points in the postseason, buoyed by a strong defensive line and running game, and standout linebacker Clancy Brown, who has nearly 30 tackles and two sacks in the playoffs.
"We have surprised ourselves a little bit by some of the things we've been able to do," Brown said. "But some of the mental mistakes we had coming in, if we can fix those, we can have a lot more points on the board. That's how we're thinking right now. We're playing much better at this point than we were last year."