November 21, 2013 10:16:01 AM
REFORM, Ala. -- The prospects of winning a state championship is what twice led Patrick Plott to accept the head coaching position at Pickens County High School.
Under Plott, the Tornadoes have become one of the powers in Alabama High School Activities Association Class 1A play. However, a trip to the state championship game has eluded the tradition-rich program.
Ranked as the state's top Class 1A team, the forecast is for that to change this season.
Pickens County (12-0) can move another step closer to Tuscaloosa, Ala., and the state championship game Friday when it travels to Ragland (10-1) for a third-round matchup. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday in Ragland.
"This has been an unusual postseason since we have gone into the playoffs as the No. 1 team," Plott said. "I think that may have given the kids a little more confidence. Last season, we had a great run, but there were two or three other teams getting the mention before us. That has made this season quite different. The kids have been handling the high expectations the entire season and doing a really great job with them."
The matchup includes the two hottest teams still playing. While Pickens County has won all 12 games it has played, Ragland has won 10 straight since a season-opening 28-20 home loss to Addison. Pickens County eliminated Addison 38-22 last Friday in second-round play.
"We came so close last year (losing to Marion County in the North State finals)," Pickens County senior running back Jermarcus Brown said. "That is what motivates us when we get down. We know that feeling, and we don't want to feel that way again."
Pickens County had that feeling at halftime against Addison, trailing 15-14. Brown took care of that deficit as he finished with 23 rushes for 256 yards and five touchdowns.
"He did what you expect of a senior leader," Plott said. "He carried the team on his back in the second half. We did not start the game with the type of intensity and emotion you need to play with. I thought Addison had that emotion.
"We didn't really match it until the second half. That is something we will have to correct this week. We can't keep coming out with slow starts."
While the starts have been slow, the end results have been kind to the Tornadoes. Pickens County has outscored its playoff opponents 74-35. The Tornadoes always have been an offensive juggernaut, now it appears they play enough defense to make playing in December a reality.
"I think we are a complete team this year," said Brown, who also plays linebacker. "Last season, we gave up too many big plays on defense. This season, everybody is playing together as a unit. We have always played physical, but now we play with the confidence that we are one of the best teams in the state."
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter