Essential must win

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Florala’s Brandon Russell gains yardage during the Pleasant Home game last week. The Wildcats will play J.U. Blacksher Saturday night on the road. | Heath Harrison/For the Star-News

Instead of playing under Friday night lights this week, the Florala Wildcats will hit the road Saturday to face Class 2A J.U. Blacksher.

The Wildcats will make the trip to Uriah after coming off two weeks of shut out losses to Brantley and Pleasant Home. Florala lost to Brantley 54-0 and PHS 35-0.

“Both teams are coming off tough losses,” FHS coach Chris Buckler said. “Us obviously to Pleasant Home, and J.U. Blacksher off Leroy, which is a good thing.

“Leroy’s a good team,” he said.

The Bulldogs fell to Leroy 49-12 last Friday night.

Buckler said Florala and J.U. Blacksher share many of the same “weaknesses.”

“We’re both struggling on the size category unlike Pleasant Home,” he said. “I think realistically, their weaknesses and our weaknesses match up. It’s going to be whether the skill guys punch through and do their assignments.

“We’ve been struggling the last couple weeks with everyone being on the same page and knowing their assignments,” he said.

In last week’s loss to Pleasant Home, Florala gave up critical turnovers, and at Monday’s practice, Buckler said it was dedicated to “mental toughness.”

“That’s kind of a thing we try to work on every single week,” Buckler said about not turning the ball over. “I don’t know if it was just the loss of continuity for a week. When we got in Georgiana and passed that, we were getting a little bit better and not having the penalties and turnovers, and then we went back to where we were at the beginning of the season.

“(Monday) we didn’t even practice,” he said. “We ran, we did sprints, and we did mental toughness for two-and-a-half hours.”

As a result of Monday’s exercise, Buckler said two players left the team.

“We had some issues we thought we needed to resolve,” he said. “We had some kids out here that wanted to get the sweatshirt instead of being on the football team.

“And our program isn’t about that,” he said. “We’re about success and obviously we haven’t put those numbers in the ‘W’ category yet, but we’re trying to get to that point and it starts somewhere. Right now, we’re going through those growing pains where some kids have to make the decision whether they want to be a part of a football program or go sit in school.”

Currently, there are 37 players on the Wildcat roster.

Buckler added that a win this week is essential for the program.

“This week is a huge week for us,” he said. “If we pull off a win this week, we’ll be coming home next week for homecoming with J.F. Shields — a very fast team, but a very winable game for us.

“That sets us into homecoming at 2-3 (overall, and 1-2 in Class 1A, Region 2), where as a couple of games determine the region outcome at the end of the year,” he said. “I think if we can get some momentum this week, then we’ve got a good shot at next week.”

Kickoff in Uriah is at 7 p.m.