Rivals to battle for playoff seed

Published 12:04 am Friday, October 24, 2014

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Andalusia assistant coach Tyler Dent talks with his position players during the Opp game. The Bulldogs travel to face Straughn tonight. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Huge playoff implications hang in the balance tonight as Andalusia travels to meet No. 2 Straughn at Tigers Stadium.

All season long, the Bulldogs and Tigers have battled the elements. AHS started the first half 1-4, but is on a four-game win streak leading into its final game of the regular season. SHS has been playing well as of late, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where the Tigers’ starters have given up less than an average of 8.2 points per game as they enter their regular-season finale.

Entering tonight’s game, Andalusia sits at 5-4 overall, and 4-2 in Class 4A, Region 2. Straughn is 7-1 overall, and 5-1 in the region. The Tigers have already clinched a playoff berth, which is something the Bulldogs are focusing on getting.

AHS head football coach Brian Seymore said he’s tried to make his players aware of the enormity of the game.

“Our’s is a little different,” Seymore said about earning a playoff berth. “With a win, you could be as high as the No. 2 seed. With a loss, you could be out. Nothing is guaranteed. I think the coaches and players understand what’s at risk. We understand it’s going to be a great atmosphere of football.”

On the other side of the coin, the Tigers must win tonight in order to host the first round of the playoffs.

SHS head football coach Trent Taylor said he’s not putting much stock on the Bulldogs’ slow start this season.

“They were playing some really good competition,” Taylor said. “As a coaching staff, we knew that. And we certainly explained it to our kids. Andalusia has every reason to be very, very confident. They hold the edge (at 10-3 in the series), but I don’t get caught up in that. It’s high school football.

“Every year is a new team,” he said. “They won four in a row and are playing well. We knew that we’re going to get their best, but at the same time, they’re going to get our best.”

Andalusia will have everybody returning to the gridiron this week with senior quarterback Brayden Burkhardt leading the charge on offense. Behind Burkhardt, AHS will utilize running backs Derrick Dorsey, Jamal Hourel and James Montgomery. Defensively, the Bulldogs have a slight advantage in size up front.

“They have more size up front defensively than what we have offensively,” Taylor said. “That’s not, on paper, a real good match up for us. You have a lot of films on them and from an offensive standpoint, I think the way Andalusia has dealt with injuries, especially a key injury to Brayden, they’ve continued to find ways to generate points.”

In the last four games, Andalusia has generated an average of 38 points per game. Straughn has scored 38.25 points per game for the season.

Leading the pack for the Tigers is senior quarterback Rollin Kinsaul, who is versatile and can run and throw the ball at will. Daryl George at running back and Brice Scott at wide receiver, are additional threats SHS likes to go to when needed.

“He’s a huge competitor,” Seymore said about Kinsaul. “He does a great job running their offense and distributing the ball well. The kids feed off of him, as far as being a leader of the team. They’ve got other weapons. Daryl’s got that big-play ability. He’s real elusive.”

On Scott, Seymore said the senior receiver knows how to extend plays.

“Brice can stretch the field,” he said. “We’ve got to do a great job of playing team defense, and play assignment football throughout.”

One of the distinct advantages each team has on the other is that they run similar schemes and base out of the same formations on said schemes.

Taylor said he’s expecting a lot of different looks from Andalusia tonight.

“By this point of the year, you’ve seen about every offensive set that’s needed,” Taylor said. “Obviously, there are teams that do better than maybe somebody else. You scheme to try to be successful at what they do best. You’ve just got to make plays when given the opportunity.”

Taylor added that ball security, something the Tigers haven’t done well as of late, is critical in the game tonight.

Seymore said, “I think it’s going to come down to which team can execute and which team can take care of the ball, and who limits the penalties.”

On the rivalry itself, Seymore said both teams have a “mutual respect” for each other and that the game’s going to highlight the best from each team.

“Some of our kids are friends,” the AHS coach said. “I think they’ll go out and play extremely hard on both sides. There’s not a lot of hate. I don’t think that’s an issue at all. For the players and coaches, we’re fine with just settling it on the field. In the community it’s different. There’s a lot of back and forth, and that’s OK. I think both teams will go out and play a hard-fought, clean football game. In the end, the one who makes the less mistakes is probably going to be the winner.”

Kick off tonight is at 7.