Ready to duke it out

Published 12:01 am Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pleasant Home’s Austin Chesser (74) in action during an earlier game this season. The Eagles will host Florala in a rivalry and region contest Friday. | Josh Dutton/Star-News

Gather around folks because the main event between Pleasant Home and Florala is only a day away as the Eagles and Wildcats battle for a rivalry and region victory on the gridiron.

Since 2000 both schools have duked it out and PHS holds an 8-4 advantage, according to Star-News’ archives.

Last season’s game was the closest in the past 11 seasons, with the Eagles winning 14-13.

Florala enters tomorrow night’s region contest at PHS 1-2 overall, and 0-2 in Class 1A, Region 2, while Pleasant Home is sitting a little better at 2-1 overall, and 2-0 in the region.

“It’s a huge rivalry game for both schools,” Eagles head coach Cody McCain said. “It’s one of those where kids from both schools know each other. They see each other a lot on the weekends and have grown up playing against each other.

“It’s always a big deal for the two schools,” he said. “It’s a region game on top of that. So, it’s even got bigger importance.”

Wildcats head coach Justin Jones said there’s nothing much to be said about the game tomorrow night because a lot of folks know how important a game it is.

“It’s Pleasant Home-Florala. Enough said,” Jones said. “We all know them. We’ve played the past few times in the fall and spring games, and (they) have been really good football games.

“I don’t expect anything less,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a good high school football game for folks to watch.”

Last week, the Eagles scraped a 14-12 region win over Kinston, while Florala fell to powerhouse Brantley 55-8. Both were home games.

Pleasant Home’s weapons on offense include running backs Jon Cole Chesser; Cameron Hill, who had 181 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown last week; and Hunter Odom at quarterback.

For Florala, the Wildcats have quarterback Austin McNeill; running back Desmond Smiley; and a good receiving corps.

“They have good weapons,” McCain said. “Austin is a really good quarterback on film. It looks like he has really good command of their offense. It’s kind of where everything begins and ends. We have our hands full trying to play against him.

“With Desmond Smiley, we have to be pretty secure running up on him,” he said. “With the receivers, we’ve just got to make sure to not let anything get behind us.”

Jones said he thinks the biggest weapon PHS has is its “offensive line.”

One such offensive lineman, who also plays on the defensive line, is PHS junior Austin Chesser, who plays at right guard.

Chesser, at 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, said if the Eagles’ line play executes well, they should be OK.

“Our last game was one of our best games defensively this year,” he said. “If we run on them (on offense) and play a good defensive game, then we’ll be fine.”

Chesser said the technique at being a right guard and left tackle is easier said than done, especially when

you have to defend Smiley, who is big and quick.

“(Smiley) dances around a lot,” Chesser said.

Like Chesser’s size, Jones said the Eagles do have some big kids up front, “there isn’t any doubt.”

“It’s going to be a game of will,” Jones said. “It’s going to be like a boxing match. At some point, you’ve got to hit back and hopefully land some blows that’ll slow them down. To me, that’s what you’ve got to do.

“You’ve got to put them in the wrong yardage situation and pound the football and go down field,” he said. “They’re good at what they do (on the run game). That’s the reason they’ve had success.”

But, in a game like this, records don’t matter.

It’s Pleasant Home-Florala week and it’s going to be a close game, McCain said.

“It’s a huge rivalry game,” McCain said. “You’re going to get both teams’ best effort. I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if it was another one-point game effort. This Friday, it’s going to be tough.”