STILL IN THE PLAYOFF HUNT: Florala needs to win out for postseason berth

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Florala Wildcats (2-5, 1-3) know what’s at stack as they prepare to take on the McKenzie Tigers (1-5, 0-4) on Friday night in McKenzie.

Florala needs to win their final three games to get into the Class 1A playoffs.

“Every game is big right now,” Florala head coach Scott Mason said. “We just have to pick up where we left off on Friday and continue to get better and healthy.”

Florala is coming off of a 68-26 victory over Red Level this past Friday.

“We are just now starting to get on track,” Mason said. “At one point, we had four running backs out and we have just beat up at skill positions.  We were finally able to open up the offense this past week. When we have all of our pieces together we can be very dangerous. That helped us on Friday and I want us to continue to spread our wings.”

Despite coming away with a big win against Red Level, Mason said things didn’t start like he would have wanted.

“They came out and popped us with jet,” Mason said. “Then we scored and they returned the kickoff for a touchdown. It was like the bad luck was just going to continue to follow us, but these kids believe in what we are doing and that makes them keep fighting.  We went through a bad stretch against some really good teams and we didn’t have all of our tools.”

Mason said that things starting shifting in the Wildcats’ direction a few weeks ago.

“Two weeks ago against Houston Academy, you felt the wind change,” Mason said. “The kids saw it and felt it and they believe that we have a chance to do something special. These kids are tired of getting beat up and beat on and they are ready to win. Even after a couple of miscues against Red level, they never doubted that we would win. We felt like we had a good game plan going into the game. The offense and defense had a finger on the pulse of what was going on.”

Florala is known to throw the ball all over the field, but Mason said they wanted to prove they were more than just an air-raid style offense.

“We wanted to make a statement to the other teams in the league,” Mason said. “The offensive line wanted to dominate and they did just that. Everyone knows that we can throw the ball 400 yards a game, but we wanted to prove that we could run for 400 yards. We got after it and we did just that.”

Mason said the team has to continue to improve.

“We have to stay focused,” Mason said. “There is a sense of urgency because there is no tomorrow. We have to make every game count and do what we are supposed to do on every snap. We have to stay healthy, focused and win three more games.”

Despite McKenzie’s record, Mason said it won’t be an easy game.

“There aren’t going to be a pushover team,” Mason said. “Coach (Tony) Norris has done a great job at McKenzie. I respect the way coach Norris coaches and the attitude that he has towards his players. He does a great job and I really respect him.”

Mason said the Wildcats control their own destiny.

“We are very appreciative of the opportunity that we have,” Mason said. “It’s ours to take. If we don’t, there is no one but us to blame. We scheduled good teams to start the season to prepare us for this chance. I didn’t realize some of the teams we scheduled would have been as good as they were, but that is going to help us down the stretch. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It takes heat, time and pressure to make diamonds out of coal. We might be diamonds. We are a tempered team. I feel like we are on the cusp of something great. To have such high expectations to start the season and then going through the stretch of games we went through, it would have been easy for these kids to hang their heads. It’s enough to take the wind out of any team, but these kids didn’t fold.”

Florala and McKenzie are tied 11-11-1 in the all-time series and the Wildcats picked up a 42-35 victory last season.

Florala and McKenzie have played two common opponents so far this season.

Florala beat Red Level (68-26) and lost to Georgiana (35-28).

McKenzie lost to Red Level (12-6) and lost to Georgiana (55-0).

Florala’s other win came in week one when the beat Class 3A St. Michael 51-9.

Kickoff between Florala and McKenzie is set for 7 p.m., Friday in McKenzie.