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Fighting for a playoff spot

Florala’s Austin McNeill executes a pass during the Brantley game last week. The Wildcats are in a position to gain momentum leading into the second half of the regular season. Florala will play Pleasant Home Friday night in a region contest. | Heath Harrison/For the Star-News

Florala coach Chris Buckler said Tuesday the game against Pleasant Home Friday night is more than a rivalry.

“It’s a rival game, but I think more important than that, we’re both looking at a situation where we’re fighting for a playoff spot — both teams,” Buckler said. “I think this game will go a long way in determining who can maybe get that third or fourth spot in our region.”

The Wildcats (1-2, 1-1 in Class 1A, Region 2) are coming off a 54-0 region loss to second-ranked Brantley.

Last week, Buckler was not at the game due to contracting pneumonia while out of town.

He will be on the sideline this week, when the Wildcats visit the Eagles at 7 p.m.

He said during the game, the players committed too many penalties, which is a key this week against Pleasant Home.

“We have to win our own penalties,” Buckler said. “Right now, that’s the one battle we’re losing with every game we play. We have more penalties than our opponent. Whether it’s our lack of discipline right now, or we’re not getting the breaks when we hope to get them.

“We’ve got to control the penalties,” he said. “We have to tackle, that’s first and foremost. And, realistically, we have to be able to control the line of scrimmage. This game will be won in the trenches and it’s going to be which ever offensive line can establish two yards down the field.”

Pleasant Home has the advantage of having strong offensive and defensive lines, Buckler said.

In addition, the Eagles have senior quarterback Cory Sims and senior running back Frank Senn controlling the offense. On the line, Pleasant Home has the added help from tight end and junior, Jeffrey Slaughter.

“He caught some good balls against Kinston last week, and he’s got a lot of size,” Buckler said about Slaughter. “I think he’s a 6-foot-3, 260-pound tight end, and you don’t see a lot of those guys in 1A football.”

When asked how big it would be to get a win this week, Buckler said it would give the team “momentum” leading into the last four games of region play.

“It’ll be a big win for us because last week, we lost 54-0,” he said. “Two weeks in a row, coming off Brantley and losing, it’ll be a huge win for us. Realistically, it will put us in a place in the next four weeks where we can be truly competitive in all four games.

“We need some momentum going into those games, and it starts Friday,” he said. “We match up well, whether the right Florala team comes out to play will be the ultimate question.”