Tigers back at work for playoffs

Published 2:21 am Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Straughn is ready to take what they have learned in the past few weeks of football and apply it to the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs on Friday, when the Tigers (8-2, 5-2) will face the Slocomb Red Tops (8-2, 6-1) in Slocomb.

The Tigers made their playoff debut in 1990 with their most recent trip to the state playing field in 2006.

Head coach Trent Taylor said that making it to the playoffs is a goal for every team, not just for Straughn.

“It’s a goal that every team has going into the end of the year,” Taylor said. “I don’t remember last year if we broke a streak of several years. Certainly, our kids were disappointed, and I think that too has probably been a motivation in the back of our kids’ minds. They didn’t like that feeling a whole lot.”

Although it is great to be in the playoffs, Taylor said the team isn’t finished accomplishing their goals for the year.

“I think the one thing we’ve got to overcome is we don’t need to just be satisfied that we’re here — it’s great that we’re here,” he said. “It’s great to still be practicing football, and we feel very fortunate to be one of two schools in the county that are doing that. But, we can’t just say that’s good, pat us on the back and send us on our way. We’ve got other goals to accomplish as well.”

Opp High School also is in the playoffs.

Taylor said he knows what kind of team the Tigers will face this Friday due to their running game.

“We drew a tough opponent,” he said. “We were in the same region as Slocomb last year. We’re very aware of what they’re capable of. This is the first team that we’ve faced that has two backs of this ability that they have. Both (Gregory) Burdeshaw and (Jermaine) Williams both have two different styles there.

“Burdeshaw reminds me a lot of Andrew Stokes for us, whereas Williams reminds me a whole lot of C.J. Richardson from Andalusia,” he said. “He has tremendous speed and great cutting ability. He’s a ‘Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside’ kind of deal.”

Sometimes the week leading into the playoffs can be stressful for the players, and Taylor said the one thing that they have been urging players is to keep learning from their mistakes.

“Defensively it’s just gang tackling,” Taylor said. “Don’t miss tackles. Offensively, I think we played a lot better at the beginning of the year than we’ve played here the last couple of weeks. The opponents have something to do with that.

“But, I think that we can certainly play better on the offensive side of the ball,” he said. “Early in the year, we were putting up a great many points. We’ve got to get back to that in the playoffs. Really and truly we only had one game, the Luverne game, where we didn’t put up a lot of points. Even in the loss to Miller, we put up 35 points. We’ve just got to be more aggressive on the offensive side of the ball. I don’t think we’ve been very physical up front lately.”

In addition on the defensive front, Taylor said that the team is doing what is needed every week to get better.

“I think the last two weeks defensively, we’ve certainly shown a lot of improvement,” he said. “Pitching a shut out against Red Level and even the Luverne game only giving up 12 points. If you had told me going in that Luverne would not have a rushing touchdown, I’d told you we were going to win the football game. They scored twice and both of them were scored on passes.

“We don’t even have a senior playing linebacker,” he said. “It’s one junior and four sophomores. Those kids are doing what you expect a young group of kids to do and that is to go in there and get the job done.”

In last week’s game against Red Level, Taylor said the team wasn’t playing with enough intensity. But, this week during practice he said the level he’s seen has been good.

“Friday we were a little sore like you always are a day after the game,” Taylor said. “It was just more of a deal that this is what Slocomb does and this what to look for and using some of the formations. Sunday night we started saying this is what we’re going to do.”