• 72°

‘Cat’ fight lies ahead

Florala’s Lavoris Ball gains ground on a J.U. Blacksher player during Saturday’s road contest. The Wildcats will host J.F. Shields Friday night to start the second half of the season. | Heath Harrison/For the Star-News

It’s going to get “Cat”-tastrophic this Friday night at homecoming, as the Florala Wildcats take on the J.F. Shields Panthers in region play.

The Wildcats are coming off a 28-6 loss to J.U. Blacksher Saturday, where the Bulldogs scored two touchdowns early in the first quarter to take the game out of reach for Florala.

Florala’s lone touchdown came on a 25-yard dash from quarterback Hunter Oswald, who came in for Austin McNeill. McNeill was out for a couple of plays after being dragged to the ground by a defender.

Coming off the loss, the Wildcats are sitting at 1-4 overall, and 1-2 in Class 1A, Region 2. Florala beat Georgiana 20-18 for its only win of the season, and J.F. Shields, primarliy a basketball school, is 0-5. Last season, the Wildcats earned one of their two wins against the Panthers.

And, right now, FHS coach Chris Buckler said the region contest Friday night will be between the two lowest scoring offenses in the region.

“It could be a 3-0 game to be honest with the way we’re playing right now,” Buckler said. “I think we match up well. Both teams have some issues we’re trying to work out.

“They’ve had problems containing other offenses, so we hope that will help us get more points on the board,” he said. “We’re really slow out of the gates right now. We need to get that lead going into half time. If we can get that lead going into half time, then we won’t give it up. We’re a much better team in the second half. It’s just time to figure out how to get going in the second half.”

Buckler said one main issue his team is dealing with right now is injuries. Florala wide receiver Zac Fleming had to have an MRI to check for a “possible” anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. In addition, two offensive linemen suffered concussions, and will be out for four to six weeks, Buckler said.

When asked how he deals with the injuries, Buckler said it all goes back to the basics.

“I tell our kids all of the time — I told them this when I came here in June that football is a very simple game, but sometimes we make it very complicated,” he said. “It comes back to being able to block and tackle, run and throw the ball — very simple things. We try to stress that into our kids, especially the younger kids.”

Buckler said the key to Friday night’s game is for his team to do better in the “red zone.”

“We’re just struggling right now once we get in the red zone — putting the ball in the end zone,” he said. “We’re moving the ball up and down the field, it’s just getting across and scoring. We don’t have the luxury of having a really good field goal kicker this time, where we can line up and get those extra points.”

This week’s game is also a significant one for Buckler. It will be the first home game he has coached since the season-opener against Samson. Buckler wasn’t at the Brantley game Sept. 10 because he contracted pneumonia.

Since then, the Wildcats have gone 0-2 on the road, losing to Pleasant Home and J.U. Blacksher.

“It’ll be nice to get back home,” he said.

Covington County Sports reporter Heath Harrison also contributed to this report.