November 5, 2010 8:01:00 AM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
The nerves are a good sign.
Even after back-to-back Christian Football Association titles and 30 consecutive victories in the past three seasons, the Victory Christian football team still has a shred of uncertainty as it enters its game at 7 tonight against Tuscaloosa Christian for the CFA championship.
"For some reason this year, Tuscaloosa has gotten into my head," Victory Christian senior Landon Ellis said. "I start thinking about it and I think we''re the underdog. Then I sit back and actually think about it and we''re not the underdog. We''re expected to win. I am nervous because of that because we have won a lot and people just say, ''Victory is going to run all over them.'' "
It''s not that the Eagles (8-0) didn''t believe they could get to this point. Instead, Victory Christian knows it is difficult to beat a team twice in the same season. It also knows that funny things can happen when the temperatures dip into the 30s in November, like they are expected to be tonight.
The fact that the game will be played at Tuscaloosa Christian in Cottondale, Ala., is another source of concern.
Despite all of those worries, Ellis and his teammates enter tonight''s game confident in the belief that their best game will be hard to beat.
"I just want our whole team to come out and play with a sense of urgency and just dominate from the beginning," Ellis said. "If we come out and play our best game, we won''t have a problem."
Ellis couldn''t help but think about Tuscaloosa Christian, which defeated North River Christian in the opening round to reach the title game, after Victory Christian was in a dogfight with Tabernacle Christian in the third quarter last week. Leading 32-26 and with Tabernacle driving, Ellis'' interception return for a touchdown provided the spark the Eagles needed to pull away for a 64-26 victory.
"I really started thinking about Tuscaloosa then," Ellis said. "Tabernacle had a great game from No. 30 (Freddy Goodgame), and he is a great running back, but they don''t have the team that Tuscaloosa does. Tuscaloosa always has a very tight team. ... I know they are tired of losing to us. They are going to come for blood, so we have to come out and play strong."
Victory Christian coach Chris Hamm said his team played well and capitalized on Tuscaloosa Christian mistakes in a 55-30 victory in the regular-season finale. He said his team will have to be ready to play four quarters tonight if it wants to keep its title run and its winning streak alive.
"If North River would have upset Tuscaloosa or if Tabernacle would have upset us it would have been sort of anticlimactic because from the very beginning, and you weren''t sure, it was Tuscaloosa and us," Hamm said. "We knew Tuscaloosa was the last game, and we knew two weeks later it was probably going to be them in the championship game. It is almost like this is the way it was meant to be. I think not to get to that point would have been a little disappointing."
Hamm said the stability Victory Christian has had on its coaching staff with assistants like Kevin Harrell, Todd Dyer, and Ronnie McDaniel has helped the program reach such a high level. As always, though, things are a little easier when teams have talent, and the Eagles are blessed this season to have seniors like Ellis, Tyler Jones, and Ben Williams leading the way The play of younger players like Kaleb Holliness and quarterback Marcus Sims has allowed Victory Christian to mix old and new to maintain its momentum.
Victory Christian won a CFA title in 2006 and after a year without a title it will look to make it three in a row.
"A lot of the schools we play are smaller schools and sometimes it is the thought, ''We''ll have football if we have enough,'' " Hamm said, "Here it is just a matter of we''re going to have football. That coupled with the fact we have had some really good athletes and the fact we have had some success has been the key to our success."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.