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BATTLE OF THE BULLDOGS PART 2: Andalusia, UMS-Wright meet up again in semifinals

For the second time in two years, the Andalusia Bulldogs prepare to square off with the UMS-Wright Bulldogs in the Class 4A South Semifinals.

It’s the second time this season and the fourth time in two years that the two teams have squared off on the grid iron.

“We ought to know each other pretty good,” Andalusia head coach Trent Taylor said. “Nobody has any secrets at this point.”

Taylor said that his Bulldogs aren’t concerned with the name on the jersey of their opponents.

“The one thing that we didn’t do last week, and to be honest something we haven’t done a lot this week and that is really talk about the opponent,” Taylor said. “It may sound a little corny, but we are about us. Last week, other than some signs posted around the facility that just had the score the last time we played Evergreen,  there wasn’t a whole lot mentioned about Hillcrest-Evergreen. We talked about individual players and we talked about schemes, but I don’t know that we ever said, ‘Hillcrest this or Hillcrest that.’ The same has been true this week. The kids know who we are playing. They know what the score was last time and that kind of stuff.”

Andalusia has continued to improve each week and Taylor said that’s something he expects them to continue this week.

“More so this year, I think these guys felt like they had a lot to prove by improving themselves each week and golly they’ve done that,” Taylor said. “They try to be better one Friday than they were the week before and that’s been pretty successful so we aren’t going to change something now.”

Taylor said the players know exactly what they are up against when it comes to UMS-Wright.

“Evey one of our kids knows who Symone Smith (UMS running back) is,” Taylor said. “These seniors have heard about him since they were in the 10th grade when he came onto the scene as a freshman. It’s just about, ‘Here’s how they line up and here’s what we’ve got to do.’ You watch UMS and their kids play very hard. Very similiar to us there isn’t a lot of Division I talent running around there on Friday night, but just a lot of really good high school football players that are playing hard for their school.”

The Andalusia players are excited for their chance to play in their third-straight semifinal game.

“This is the semifinals and the atmosphere has been exactly what you would expect it to be,” Taylor said. “With each passing week, I think coaches probably get a little more on edge as the stakes get higher and higher, but I guarantee if you went to other schools that are practicing this week the same could be said about them. Again, our guys know what Monday practice looks like, they know what Tuesday practice looks like, they know what Wednesday practice looks like and they could probably almost write the schedule themselves. They know the things they are going to do. Tuesday was tough. It was bitterly cold and we did the things we felt like we needed to get done outside. Monday and Wednesday we were outside. The energy is great and the biggest thing about this team is they have been getting ready for this game for three weeks.”

Taylor said that the Bulldogs haven’t been looking ahead, but they knew a path to the state championship would likely include a rematch with UMS-Wright.

“Let me back up, nobody was looking ahead, but when that horn sounded on Friday night those guys knew they were playing UMS again,” Taylor said. “It’s not about them winning last year or anything like that, it’s just been about going about the things we’ve got to do in order to give ourselves a chance to win the football game. If that’s enough, great and we are doing this one more week. If it’s not, doggone it they got us again and we will take a week or two off and get right back in the weightroom and go again.”

Getting to the state championship is a goal for every team, Taylor said.

“Your hopes and dreams for every team is to make the state championship,” Taylor said. “Last year, the expectations were so high and rightfully so. That group last year put some high expectations on themselves. This year, obviously from week one the expectations were not where they were last year. However, I think these guys have now grown into that. ‘OK you go do this and then do that then my gosh you might as well do the whole thing.’ As someone reminded me earlier in the week, whether it was Andalusia in the 70s or whatever the case may be, it’s usually a few years process to get to that point and you know you’re talking about group of seniors that are going to take the field tomorrow night (Friday) that have played in the semifinals three out of their four years. That speaks volumes about them and the guys that came before them. We are excited to have the opportunity, but we aren’t satisfied. We don’t ever want to get to that point.”

Not being satisfied with just getting to the semifinals is something that Taylor said the Bulldogs have to keep doing.

“I made a comment early in the year when we were struggling a little bit that maybe our fan base had gotten a little spoiled,” Taylor said. “Even to the point that maybe our kids had gotten a little spoiled. I’ve got to say that when things were at the worst, that’s when I think our guys cinched up their belt and said, ‘Hey, we are going to do something about this.’ While I certainly don’t want anyone to be spoiled we certainly want the expectations to be the same here year in and year out. I think if we get to the point as a community, as a football team and even as an athletic program where our goals are not the highest that they can possibly be then we just need to stop playing. There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from athletics and one of those is to be the best that you can be in everything you do in life. So if we are going to field a football team, we need to try to be the best we can be. The same is true with any athletics or the chorus department or whatever it is. I think that’s the expectations of our community and that should be the expectations of our school and our school system. If we are going to do it, we are going to do it better than anyone else. Not just those around us, but better than anyone in the state. Obviously, we haven’t achieved that in football yet, but I don’t anybody can argue that we are getting real close. We’ve certainly been in the top two or three the past few years and we want to stay there.”

Andalusia and UMS-Wright are scheduled to begin at 7, tonight in Mobile.