Published 12:05 am Friday, November 25, 2016

The No. 1-ranked Andalusia Bulldogs (12-1) have been focused all week on tonight’s Class 4A semi-final playoff contest with the Handley Tigers (11-2).

“This is just a great opportunity for not only the kids, but of the community,” Andalusia head coach Trent Taylor said. “At the beginning of the year, every coach wants to be playing in Tuscaloosa or Auburn, depending on where the state championship is that year. We got close to it last year, but came up a little short. The kids got that taste in their mouths, and this year they wanted more.”

Andalusia and Handley have already had great seasons, despite the outcome of tonight’s semi-final contest, Taylor said.

“There are 15 weeks that the state gives you to play football,” Taylor said. “If you are still playing in week 14, you have obviously done something right. It will be great season regardless, but it’s hard to see that when right away. We have accomplished a lot this year and I’m very proud of this team for that, but we still have a couple of goals left to accomplish.”

Accomplishing those goals has had a lot and will have a lot to do with Bulldogs’ focus during the week.

“All season long, these kids have come in on Sunday focused and ready to learn about our next opponent,” Taylor said. “However, since that first Sunday before the playoff game against Alabama Christian, there has just been a whole different level of focus. Each week, that intensity to detail and scouting there opponents has gone up more and more. They aren’t just doing this at practice with the coaches, but they are also going out and doing it on their own.”

That focus has show itself on the playing field, as the Bulldogs have leveled every opponent put in front of them during the playoffs.

The offense has been playing at a high level, and have scored at least 40 points in every playoff game. Most of those points have come in the first half.

The Bulldog offense has been led by junior quarterback Ethan Wilson.

Wilson has completed 124-of-205 passes for 1,965 yards and 21 touchdowns. On the ground, Wilson has rushed for 720 yards and an additional six touchdowns.

The Bulldog receiving corps has been led by Derrick McQueen and B. J. Anderson.

McQueen has caught 41 passes for 890 yards and eight touchdowns.

Anderson has hauled in 42 catches for 570 yards and six touchdowns.

At running back, Zack Woods has had a big year behind the hulking Bulldog offensive line.

Woods has rushed for 859 yards and nine touchdowns.

Jamal Hourel missed much of the season due to injury, but has returned to rush for 506 yards and six touchdowns.

Andalusia’s short-yardage bulldozer Antonio Gurley leads the Bulldogs in rushing touchdowns with 12 on just 17 carries.

“We are going to have to keep doing what we have been all year offense,” Taylor said. “Handley is very good football team. They have great defense with a couple of linebackers that really fly to the football. They play really downhill and do a great job of getting pressure on the quarterback.”

When the high-scoring Bulldog offense takes a rest on the sideline, Andalusia’s unrelenting defense has wreaked havoc on opposing offenses.

Andalusia’s starting defense has yet to allow a point through the first three playoffs games.

Through 13 games, Andalusia has limited opposing teams to less than nine points a game.

Roaming the middle of the field, Gurley has been a monster on the Bulldog defense picking up 114 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and six sacks.

William Lindsey has also been a quarterback dropping machine with six sacks. Lindsey also has 51 tackles and 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Leading the way with stops in the backfield is Will Clark with 15 tackles for a loss. Clark also has 49 tackles, four sacks and one interception.

Opposing quarterbacks haven’t tested him as much in the past several weeks, but Andalusia cornerback Allan George leads all of Class 4A with 7 interceptions on the season. George returned one of those to the end zone for touchdown. George has also returned two punts for scores and caught one touchdown pass.

“I know I’ve said this and it sounds like cliche, but at this time of year whoever makes the fewest mental mistakes and plays the best in the kicking game is probably going to win,” Taylor said. “There are only four teams left in each classification and on any given Friday night any of them can beat the others. The kids can take a tremendous amount of pride for making it to this point, but we have to continue to pay attention to every detail and stay focused on the task at hand.”

Andalusia and Handley will kickoff tonight at 7 p.m. Gates will open at 5:15 p.m.