Seniors lead the way

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Straughn’s 21 seniors carried a lot of weight on their shoulders at the start of the 2013 season, and the way they handled that pressure spoke volumes on the gridiron, Tigers head football coach Trent Taylor said.

The Tigers just wrapped up another successful season, finishing in the Class 3A state semifinals, where they lost 19-7 to Leeds. This was the second straight season that SHS finished in the semifinals.

Finishing as one of the last four teams in their classification wasn’t the goal from the start of the year, Taylor said.

“I think it was almost unspoken, as far as what their drive was, what their goal was,” Taylor said. “It’s one thing when nobody expects you to be no good. It’s certainly a whole lot easier to play when nobody expects you to do too much.”

Going into this season, the expectations were pretty high, the coach said.

“I think those kids, whether they realized it or admitted it, they put a lot of presure on themselves, and that’s not easy to play with,” Taylor said. “The fact that we were invited to the Champions Challenge (in the preseason) said a lot about what they were expected (to accomplish).”

Straughn’s seniors are Taylor Messick, Brennan Head, Justin McCormick, Steven Twitty, James Lindsey, Austin Worley, Austin Matrullo, Devin Scott, Jamie Stewart, Johnny Owens, Jordan Newman, Keith Edgar, Nick Stepp, Christopher Evers, Beau Spivey, Zach Riley, Dalton Watson, Jeffery Fraze, Brock Watson, Jeremiah Jones, Conner Livings and Brady Page.

After defeating Walter Wellborn in the preseason challenge, Straughn lost to rival Andalusia 12-6 in week one. Then, the Tigers went on a six-game winning streak, getting big wins over W.S. Neal in week two, Elba in week five and Bayside Academy in week six.

The toughest game for Straughn, in Taylor and some of the coaches’ opinions, was the first match up against the Admirals. SHS defeated Bayside Academy 40-22 in its first meeting, and then won 42-21 in the third round.

It was an especially tough game on defense, Taylor said.

“They do so many different things,” the coach said.

With a playoff berth already clinched, Straughn went on to defeat an improved Excel 26-13 that set up a region championship try against T.R. Miller.

TRM handed Straughn its worst loss of the season in a 42-7 defeat, and Taylor said the players realized that there was more work that needed to be done.

In order to secure the No. 2 seed going into the first round, SHS needed to beat rival Opp in its final game of the regular season.

The Tigers came out and played one of their most complete games offensively in a 49-21 rout over the Bobcats.

Now that the seeding was set for the first round, Straughn used week 10 — a bye week — to get healthy and rest for Northside in the first round. SHS went on to win 42-0 to set up its second-round game at Dale County.

The Warriors entered the game undefeated and was the scariest team the Tigers had to face this season, Taylor said. SHS beat DCHS 29-20 setting up the rematch with Bayside Academy.

“Our most complete game was probably Dale County,” he said. “I think Dale County was a night from an offensive stand point, that we played pretty well, and also against Opp.”

Straughn then beat the Admirals for a second time, and thought it would be playing TRM again. However, Leeds had other plans in its 24-20 win over the Brewton Tigers in the third round, forcing SHS to travel the long distance for a shot at the state finals.

SHS didn’t get off to a great start last Friday night, allowing the Green Wave to go ahead 12-0 by halftime on a field goal, a touchdown and then a safety.

The Tigers got on board with a short-yardage TD from Devin Scott in the second half, but LHS pulled away once again to take the 12-point lead to the house.

SHS had a few opportunities to make the game close, but couldn’t convert in the red zone.

Looking back over the season, Taylor said early on that he was proud of how the defense stepped up while the offense was searching for its identity.

“I was extremely proud of how the offensive line adjusted to us doing something (different),” he said. “Once they kind of came to grips to what we were doing, and some of that was fitting personnel and linking it all together (they started to jell).”

Next year, the Tigers will have a young bunch of players, who Taylor said he hopes will come in ready, both “physically and mentally.”

“Obviously, we’ve got a good nucleus,” Taylor said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys who really have got to step it up. There are some sophomores who may not even realize it yet who certainly are going to have to play for us next year. There are some juniors who haven’t been on the field that have got to mature real quickly.”

Straughn finished its 2013 season 10-3.

Straughn’s Devin Scott (21) rushes for a gain during the second round at Dale County, while Beau Spivey (48) and Zach Riley (52) block. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Straughn’s Devin Scott (21) rushes for a gain during the second round at Dale County, while Beau Spivey (48) and Zach Riley (52) block. | Andrew Garner/Star-News