Andalusia seniors Phillip James, Michael McCalman, Austin Leverington, Chase Helms and Will Harrison wait for their numbers to be called at practice Tuesday afternoon. | Andrew Garner/Star-News
Andalusia seniors Phillip James, Michael McCalman, Austin Leverington, Chase Helms and Will Harrison wait for their numbers to be called at practice Tuesday afternoon. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Working for a title

Published 12:01am Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Standing inside of Andalusia’s practice facility on the first day of workouts, the Bulldog football team watched as their coaches hung the team’s latest championship plaque from 1977.

For the 10 seniors in attendance, the focus to hang another had just begun.

Andalusia will start its postseason on Friday as the Bulldogs play host to Childersburg in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.

The Bulldogs have lost in the first round the last four years.

Sitting in the conference room of the school’s indoor facility, the seniors said the mentality of the team has changed and that it has worked harder than ever before to get ready for this season.

“We’re a lot closer as a team,” AHS offensive lineman Austin Leverington said. “We’ve overcome a lot. People said we weren’t going to be anything this year.

“This team’s a lot different than past years with the work that we’ve put in,” he said.

All of the hard work this year has shown, especially on the field.

This Andalusia team is probably the most fit team that’s been on the gridiron since these seniors can even remember.

“A lot of that’s why we’re a second-half team,” AHS cornerback Jud Rogers said. “A lot of times, the other team is tired in the fourth quarter.”

What made the Bulldogs’ conditioning program different than any other years is its four-day-a-week commitment during summer workouts and the “up tempo” pace.

“Also, mental toughness,” AHS linebacker Quinton Maddox said. “We had to go through a lot of mental toughness (drills). We ran into a lot of it.”

Staying mentally tough during this season has helped the Bulldogs come through with wins in some tough games, such as the 20-17 win over Thomasville, the 28-20 victory over Clarke County and even the 27-6 victory over Wilcox Central, the seniors said.

The change in the seniors’ mentality goes directly to what new AHS assistant coaches Randy Bryant and Tyler Dent brought to the table, the group said.

“Since day one,” AHS linebacker Montel Lee said.

“They have a different type of motivation,” AHS offensive lineman Justin Scherzinger said. “They’re here to win, nothing less.”

Rogers said the players’ relationships with Bryant, Dent, AHS head football coach Brian Seymore, defensive coordinator Marshall Locke, and assistant coaches Jacob King, Matt Mellown and Matt Johnson are great because it’s more of a “family” type atmosphere.

“We’re not just out here as teammates, it’s like a family,” Rogers said. “We’re brothers over here. We’ve got each other’s backs and look after each other.”

The seniors agreed that this season was the first year that they’ve felt closer to each other.

“We feel like we’ve stepped up a lot and tried to lead the team more than in the past as upperclassmen,” Rogers said.

Rogers said a flame was also lit when the championship plaque was hung almost five months ago. That flame still burns to this day.

“That really started the fire itself,” he said.

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