Tigers turn 1-9 into 9-2, and maybe even more…

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 16, 2006

No one in the community, the county or even the state thought it could be done.

The Greenville Tigers were coming off consecutive 1-9 seasons when current head coach Bryant Vincent took over in his first job as a head coach, and even he said he thought it would take some time.

The Tigers' turnaround did take some time, but it wasn't years as expected.

In just about seven months, Vincent has directed a turnaround for the AHSAA record books.

Sitting at 9-2, Greenville travels to Pleasant Grove Friday for the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.

&#8220It's been quite a year,” Vincent said of the 2006 season.

For many players on Greenville's team, losing has been a constant.

All that changed the moment Vincent stepped on campus and he said it has been gratifying sending this year's senior class out winners.

&#8220It just gives me a great feeling of satisfaction,” Vincent said. &#8220I'm just hoping this goes to show our players that they can be just as successful in life if they apply the same work ethic they have applied this season.”

The Tigers can continue that success Friday at Pleasant Grove as they take on an extremely talented Spartan team that finished first in Region 4.

The Spartans, led by senior running back Frank Warren, finished the regular season with one loss and are coming off a 28-7 first round win over Vigor.

Warren, who has been nominated for Player of the Week many times this season, is a candidate for Mr. Football in Class 5A and has rushed for more than 600 yards in the last three games.

&#8220(Pleasant Grove) seems to be getting hot now, at the right time,” Vincent said. &#8220They have a good quarterback, giving them the option to throw and pass, but obviously their first option is to keep feeding Warren.”

The Pleasant Grove defensive front, which averages over 275 pounds, also presents a problem for the Greenville offensive front.

&#8220They are big and they are athletic,” Vincent said of the Spartan defensive line. &#8220We've got to control them, plain and simple.”

One key to control the Spartan defense could be senior running back Brandon Cheatham, who rushed for more than 100 yards and also rushed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown during the Tigers' 19-7 win over Demopolis in the first round Friday.

&#8220Brandon (Cheatham) is a winner,” Vincent said. &#8220I could tell Brandon was a winner from the first day I saw him work out and he has the ultimate respect not only for his fellow players and coaches, but for all people.”

And although junior quarterback Casey Weston has the bulk of Greenville's rushing touchdowns with 18, it is Cheatham who has not fumbled all season long.

&#8220And that's remarkable,” Vincent said.

In a match up of two great offenses and defenses, it is the special teams, Vincent said, that could be the difference.

&#8220For us to win this game, it's going to take a total team effort,” Vincent said.

In recent weeks, the Tigers have gotten an added boost from the Tiger return team and Vincent said that makes scoring on offense a whole lot easier.

&#8220Coach (Joey) Hamilton really works hard on getting our return team prepared and they've taken pride in getting a good return for our offense,” Vincent said.

If the Tigers can put all phases of the game together Friday and pull off the win, Vincent said the sky would be the limit for this team.

&#8220A win this week would beŠ a dream come true,” Vincent said. &#8220When we brought in the team on Sunday, you could tell that they knew they belonged (in the playoffs).”

Now that the Tigers know they belong, belonging is not enough.

&#8220I would love to say a win would cap a tremendous season, but it's not over yet,” Vincent said.