October 28, 2010 12:21:00 PM
SULLIGENT, Ala. -- South Lamar High School football coach Josh Harper knows his squad will face a challenge at 7 tonight when it takes on Sulligent High.
The Blue Devils, who clinched the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 2A, Region 8 championship last week, come into the game 7-2 and 6-1. They have won the past three meetings in the series, including a 52-14 victory last week.
"You can throw out the records," Sulligent High interim coach Ronnie Hubbert said.
Harper hopes that is the case. South Lamar, which is coming off a 45-27 victory against Meek, is 3-6 and 2-5 in Class 1A, Region 5 standings.
"There has always been a rivalry," Harper said. "Since the beginning of the schedule, it has always been a tough game."
Hubbert agrees, adding South Lamar and Sulligent have close connections, including geography.
"Their offensive coordinator, Coach (Lane) Wright, was one of our defensive coaches," he said.
Said Harper, "Well, we''re not going to give him back."
Hubbert added the closeness of the schools -- a little more than 25 miles apart -- always is an element of the game.
"We are all in this together," he said. "We all wanna beat up each other. We''ve got tradition we''ll stack up together."
Harper said he almost can''t understand Sulligent''s record.
"When I look at the film, I wonder how they have two losses," he said. "I''m impressed they have big solid offensive and defensive lines, and the defensive line will come after you. They score quick and often. They play good fundamental football."
The short week because of the Thursday night game will help Sulligent get an extra day before the playoffs.
"We just have to make sure we get through this game," Hubbert said.
Sulligent earned the district title thanks to its 65-20 victory against Colbert Heights earlier this season. Both teams finished with 6-1 district records. Sulligent will play host to West End Walnut Grove (4-5, 4-4 region) next week.
"I know they come from a tough region," Hubbert said. "But I don''t know anything about them."
n No. 7 Gordo (8-1, 7-0 region) at Pickens County (6-3, 5-2 region): At Reform, Ala., the other rivalry game tonight will feature playoff-bound teams.
Gordo captured the AHSAA Class 3A, Region 4 championship, while Pickens County was third in AHSAA Class 1A, Region 4. The Tornadoes will take on Loachapoka (6-3, 5-2 region), the No. 2 team in Class 1A, Region 3.
Pickens County coach Scott Marchant expects a tough game, and spares no accolades talking about Gordo.
"It''s a big rivalry game," he said. "Each team wants bragging rights for the next year. They are the class of the (Class) 3A teams I''ve seen play football. They are a very, very good football team. They have strong offensive and defensive lines, speed -- especially in the skill positions -- and power running backs."
n Pickens Academy (5-4, 3-3 region) at Marengo Academy (2-7, 0-6 region): At Marengo, Ala., the playoff-bound Pirates can''t look past Friday''s opponent, said coach John Gartman.
"Marengo has struggled with their record this year, but they still have a decent team," he said. "They''ve got a lot of athletes who play hard, so we are looking for a good game."
Gartman, however, doesn''t discount the fact his squad is ready for "the second season" next week.
"We''re looking forward to the playoffs," he said, "but we''ve got to get past this one first."
Pickens Academy''s first-round opponent is Clarke Prep of Grove Hill, which captured the Alabama Independent School Association''s Class 2A, Region 2 title with an 8-1 record (6-0 region).
n Winfield (7-2, 5-2 region) at Lamar County (4-5, 4-3 region): At Vernon, Ala., Bulldogs'' coach Ken Adams said Friday''s game will mean different things to different players. His players, however, will be ready for the competition.
"It''s a fun game," Adams said. "There''s a certain amount of competition when you play a bigger school. The kids want to play harder."
Because it''s the final game of the year for Lamar County, the players will be competing on different levels.
"It''s the last four quarters for our seniors," Adams said. "For the younger guys, and we''ve talked about this for the past few weeks, we don''t ever want to be in this position again."
Red Bay''s 48-0 victory last week against Cherokee and its regular-season win against Lamar County in their in AHSAA Class 2A, Region 8 matchup eliminated the Bulldogs from the playoffs.
"We don''t want to play just 10 games," Adams said. "We want to play when it''s cold, and we didn''t do that this year."
n Aliceville (6-3, 5-2 region), open: In Aliceville, Ala., the Yellow Jackets are taking the week to heal and get ready for the playoffs next week.
Coach Eddie Hill said his squad will have to be in its best shape because the first-round opponent is No. 2-ranked Handley of Roanoke. Handley lost to No. 1-ranked Leeds 14-13 last week.
"We are just going to go there and play," said Hill, whose Yellow Jackets finished third in AHSAA Class 2A, Region 1. "You never know what''s going to happen. I''ve seen a lot of things happen in football games."