Bulldogs have ‘must win’ game tonight

Published 12:01 am Friday, September 19, 2014

0919 spt-Chase Hopkins

Andalusia’s Chase Hopkins grabs a long snap last week at Ashford. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

From the players to the coaches, Andalusia’s football team is fully aware that tonight’s region game against No. 9 St. James is a “must win.”

“We talked to our team about that this week,” Bulldogs head football coach Brian Seymore said. “We’re preparing for it like it was a playoff game. It’s a must win for us.

“We cannot get any further behind in region play against these teams. There’s no way we can,” he said. “It’s another opportunity. I hope our kids take full advantage of it. From start to finish last week, it’s not what we’re accustomed to seeing at Andalusia.”

Seymore was referring to last week’s 37-7 drumming from Ashford, where the Bulldogs (1-3, 1-1 in Class 4A, Region 2) allowed 37 unanswered points in the loss.

To get ready for the multiple-type Trojans, AHS spent Monday through Wednesday in full pads. On a normal week, the Bulldogs go full pads only one day a week.

Seymore said it was crucial to help establish aggressiveness again.

“We’ve had a very physical week of practice,” he said. “We’ve got to learn to be more physical and learn to play at a higher level. I felt like if you hit each other (more than usual), then you’ll get your mind right for Friday night because at 7 o’clock, we’ve got to play a physical game against another quality football team.”

Right now, the Bulldogs are in a four-way tie at 1-1 in Class 4A, Region 2 with Straughn, Montgomery Catholic and Trinity. SHS hosts Trinity, while Catholic is at home against Ashford tonight.

The Bulldogs need to win tonight to have a good chance during the second half of the season to clinch a spot in the playoffs. AHS still has Bullock County, Headland, Montgomery Catholic and Straughn left in its region schedule after this week. BCHS and HHS haven’t won a game yet this year.

For Andalusia senior defensive tackle O.T. Green, getting off to a fast start is critical.

“For four quarters, we’ve got to play a full four quarters,” Green said. “We just can’t wait until the second half (like the Bulldogs did against Trinity). We’ve got to jump on them early. We’ve got to do our job.”

Seymore had something similar to say about getting going strong in tonight’s game.

“We’ve faced a lot of adversity,” Seymore said. “We’re minus 8 on giveaways and takeaways. We’ve gave away (turnovers) eight more times than we took away. We need something to turn in our favor — a big turnover, a big run or somebody making a big play offensively. Defensively, need some momentum, but I also firmly believe that you create your own luck. We can definitely play better as a team on both sides of the ball, and it’s on the coaches and the players to get this program back in the right direction.”

To help get back in that right direction, Andalusia will have its starting quarterback, Brayden Burkhardt (leg) back out on the field tonight, along with starting running back, Derrick Dorsey (ankle). Burkhardt and Dorsey are seniors and Seymore said he knows they aren’t 100 percent, but their leadership is needed on the field.

St. James running back Jonathan Robinson, quarterback Connor Collier and Auburn commit/tight end Jalen Harris — who is wearing the No. 43 jersey in honor of former AU standout and Trojans coach Philip Lutzenkirchen, who died in a car crash this summer — are the Trojans’ main threats.

Seymore said STJ (3-0, 2-0) likes to run a lot of different formations, but the ball ends up in Robinson’s hands.

“They do a great job of controlling the clock through their offense. They make sure the defense is rested. They’ve only given up 28 points this year. They’ve done a good job on both sides of the ball.”

On Harris, Seymore added that the Bulldogs need to know where he is at all times on the field, offensively and defensively.

With the Trojans showing a lot of formations, “alignment-assignment” is big this week, the coach said.

“We have to know exactly how were lining up and know what we’re doing,” Seymore said. “If we don’t, then a defensive break down can lead to a huge play. We need to eliminate those big plays to be successful.”

Sometimes simplifying the defense can lead to stopping a potent offense, Green said.

“We’ve got to get lined up and do our assignments,” Green said. “If we miss our alignments incorrectly, we won’t do what we’re supposed to do.”

Kick off tonight is at 7 at AHS.