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SHS ready for playoff battle against Panthers

Straughn and Geneva will go head-to-head tonight at Tiger Stadium and one team will advance to the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs.

Straughn ended its regular season with a 34-14 rout of county rival Red Level, while Geneva defeated Samson 27-12.

The Tigers are 7-3 and the Panthers are 4-6 heading into tonight’s game.

Throughout the season, Geneva has had some “close” games, falling to Pike County, 13-12; losing to Headland, 22-20; and winning against Wicksburg, 2-0, to name a few.

Straughn coach Trent Taylor said even though Geneva’s losses were close, his team is not taking them lightly.

“Geneva is a team that finished fourth in their region, but they lost to the first, second and third placed teams by a total of seven points,” Taylor said. “They are a team that was in our region not too many years ago and we’ve faced them four to five times in the last seven years. We’re familiar with their athletes and the talent they have. They have a power-running football team and they get into every formation to do it.”

Geneva coach Jeff Williams said that he is excited about the opportunity to play Straughn tonight.

“Trent does a wonderful job with his coaching staff and his team,” Williams said. “I’ve been impressed watching them on film and we feel like we have our hands full.

“We feel like we’re having to play one of the better teams in the state of Alabama,” he said. “They beat T.R. Miller and Luverne, and I consider them two of the better teams in the state.”

In those two games, Straughn defeated Miller, 28-21, and Luverne, 28-6.

Taylor said there is one difference between Geneva, Miller and Luverne.

“Probably the difference between Geneva and Luverne and Miller is that they don’t have that guy that has tremendous breakaway speed,” he said. “They rely on a power running attack and eating up the clock and grinding it out. We’re trying to make our kids understand and get them prepared to sit there and don’t become impatient because of their patience.”

Straughn’s offense is option-based, while Geneva employs the use of an “I” formation on offense.

“We’re a very much a running football team,” Williams said. “You look at our scores and we’re averaging 17 to 18 points per game and giving up 17 to 18 points per game. We have a very difficult challenge for us because they have very big boys up front.”

To help Geneva overcome the challenge tonight, running back and wide receiver Jorez Tolver will try to help out. He has rushed for 303 yards on 56 carries and has 25 receptions for 342 yards and four touchdowns.

In addition, Geneva’s Quan Tolbert has rushed for 744 yards on 111 carries and has seven touchdowns this season.

“I think, last week, Geneva lined up in 52 (different) formations,” Taylor said. “They make it tough on the defensive front. They are not afraid to throw the ball. They have a tall receiver and they are not afraid to throw it.

“They do a lot of different things and it’s been difficult for us this week,” he said. “We’ll need to play a good game this week on the offensive side of the ball.”

Straughn will be utilizing its running game as well, with the help of quarterback Josh Dewrell and running backs Eric Samuel and Kaleb Green.

Dewrell has rushed for 596 yards on 115 carries and has 13 touchdowns; Samuel has rushed for 351 yards on 53 carries and has seven touchdowns; and Green has rushed for 403 yards on 80 carries and has four touchdowns.

“Every week, you’re still in it if you win and doing something else if you lose,” Taylor said. “This is what you do all your summer workouts for.”

Kickoff in Straughn is at 7 p.m.