Straughn, Bayside Academy to meet for semifinals shot

Published 12:02 am Friday, November 22, 2013

Straughn’s Daryl George advances for a gain last week. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Straughn’s Daryl George advances for a gain last week. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

It’s Straughn and Bayside Academy — again.

The Tigers and Admirals will square off on the gridiron at Tigers Stadium tonight for the second time this season in the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Class 3A state quarterfinals.

The 10th-ranked Tigers and Admirals played in a rousing regular-season contest about seven weeks ago, where SHS (9-2) scored two late touchdowns in the fourth quarter to end up with a 40-22 win and a spot in the postseason. Bayside has won six straight since its loss to the Tigers, narrowly escaping the Bulldogs last week in a come-from-behind 32-18 victory over Pike County. SHS is coming off of a 29-20 victory over previously undefeated Dale County.

The last time Straughn played Bayside Academy twice during a season was in 2009. SHS lost its regular-season contest 27-0 that year, but bounced back in the second round to win 14-0 over the Admirals.

Tigers head football coach Trent Taylor said it’s pretty rare to see football teams play each other twice in a season.

“When you play basketball or baseball, you expect to play a team two, three or four times. That’s no big deal,” Taylor said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to be here. The thing that we’ve reminded our kids about a whole lot this week is that with a little less than eight minutes to go in the game, it was 27-22 (in the 40-22 win over Bayside). It was a very, very tight ball game at that point. Somewhere within a few seconds of that, we scored and went up 34 and they obviously, had to throw it.

“So, we got one more and were trying to run the clock out, breaking a run and ended up getting it in the end zone,” he said. “When you look at the score, that’s certainly not indicative of the way the game went that night.”

The Admirals have quarterback Hunter Slater, who went 10-of-22 for 183 yards in passing during last week’s game against PCHS. Tripp Puckett, another offensive threat, rushed for 92 yards and two touchdowns.

Additionally, Bayside Academy (8-4) will be without wingback and linebacker Zach Dyas, who suffered a broken leg in the win last week. He had surgery over the weekend, according to reports.

“They’re very good and very sound,” Taylor said. “They’re a football team that doesn’t make mistakes.”

Getting stops on third down will be a big key this week, Taylor said.

“That’s been the thing that (SHS defensive coordinator) John (Fussell) has harped to the kids defensively for several weeks now,” Taylor said. “You can’t play lights out on first down and second down and then have a let down on third down. If you look at that, a lot of those conversions came with Hunter making those plays with his feet or arm.”

Other than playing a second time this season, both teams are vying for a shot to play in the state semifinals, a feat Straughn accomplished last year.

“You’re where you want to be right now,” Taylor said. “You can’t get any better than this at this moment. It’s just, again, keeping everything in focus and knowing that there are three very, very tough football games left. The only one that really matters is this one that’s being played (tonight), and making sure we’re not thinking beyond that.”

Taylor said last year, the team was a little “guilty” of doing just that.

“It’s just really, really important that you play this one,” he said. “The thing that makes this Friday night a little bit bigger is simply that we’ve played them already this year. I don’t think revenge is any kid of motivation. Any exterior motivation goes away right after the football is kicked.

“Being a team that lost the first one probably gives them a little bit extra motivation,” he said. “That’s where our kids have to be real, real mature about the whole deal and not go on the opposite end. I hope when you’ve got a team that’s got as many seniors as this one has, that that would not be a problem. The focus would be exactly where it needs to be.”

Kick off tonight in Straughn is at 7.