­Making the most of it

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 4, 2009

Straughn coach Trent Taylor said this year’s Tigers made the “most improvement” out of any team he has coached in his 22-year career.

“This team improved more than any other team I have been associated with,” Taylor said. “It was very apparent.”

It was apparent because Straughn finished the year with a 9-4 record and advanced to the quarterfinals in the Class 3A state playoffs.

Before the Tigers’ playoff run, Oct. 2 against Central-Hayneville was significant for the team because that game started a seven-game winning streak.

By that point in the season, the Tigers were 2-3, after having lost to Andalusia in week one and Bayside and Opp in weeks four and five, respectively.

“Early in the season, we were just not a very good football team,” Taylor said. “We were not good at what we needed to be good at in order to be a successful football team.”

Taylor said in order to get better as a team, there were some adjustments made on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, Straughn went from a shotgun option-based team to an under center option-based team. That allowed more players on the offense to be able to make plays.

Defensively, the Tigers used linebackers and secondary play a little more than they had been.

“In doing that, we immediately eliminated the mistakes we had made,” Taylor said. “It became easier for (quarterback) Josh (Dewrell) from that standpoint in that there were easier reads.”

Taylor said the decision to make the necessary adjustments did not come until when his team lost to Bayside Academy 27-0, where Straughn gave up seven turnovers.

“I think at that point, we realized we’ve got to do something to eliminate those mistakes,” he said. “ It’s just hard for the option team to mesh in the gun. In the next week against Opp, we were primarily in gun, but I think in week four, we knew we had to do something different.”

On offense this season, the Tigers rushed for 3,066 yards on 525 carries and had 40 touchdowns; and was 35-of-76 for 450 yards and four touchdowns in passing.

On defense, Straughn had 796 tackles, averaging 61.2 per game.

Taylor said by week three he could see there was a good possibility his team could make another appearance in the playoffs.

“I felt like in week three against Cottage Hill that these kids did have the talent, and No. 2, that it wasn’t always about who had the best players,” he said. “If we would take care of our responsibilities and trust the other guy to do that same thing, then we would successful.

“We won that game that night and looked real well. Then, the next two weeks, we didn’t play so well. I think our kids did understand what they needed to do, and then all of a sudden for our offensive line, it started clicking from an effort, technique and ‘I know who to block’ standpoint.”

As a reward for the dedication and hard work that his players put in during this season, Taylor drove his team up to Tuscaloosa for the Super 6 finals Thursday to watch the Class 3A finals Cordova-Piedmont game — Piedmont won, 35-28, in overtime.

“We want them to see what it’s like,” Taylor said. “That this is why we do all the extra reps and do the running in June and July.”

As far as next season, Taylor said the team is looking forward to the challenge of moving up to Class 4A, Region 2.

“Our kids are excited about it,” he said.