All on the ‘line’
Pleasant Home coach Robert Bradford made it quite clear Tuesday that in order for the Eagles to be successful over Sweet Water this Friday night, then they’ll have to win at the line of scrimmage.
The Eagles will hit the road to play the fourth-ranked Bulldogs in the first round of the Class 1A state playoffs, where kickoff in Sweet Water is at 7 p.m. This is Pleasant Home’s first appearance in the playoffs since 2006, when the Eagles finished in the second round. For Sweet Water, it’s the Bulldogs’ 10th in a row to make it to the first round.
“They’re a really good football team,” Bradford said. “Our team has been able to go up against good football teams this year with Brantley and McKenzie. We’ve put (Sweet Water) in the same group as them.”
The Bulldogs finished their regular season with a 7-3 record, compared to Pleasant Home’s 5-5 finish. Sweet Water’s only losses came against Class 4A’s top-ranked Thomasville, Class 2A’s top-ranked Leroy and Class 3A’s third-ranked Handley.
Pleasant Home’s road to the playoffs started on Oct. 8 with a win over Georgiana. The Eagles had to win the next two games against J.F. Shields and Geneva County to clinch the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.
Pleasant Home did that with the help of running back Frank Senn, and it’s impressive offensive line. Senn finished the regular season with 1,625 yards rushing. In his team’s three-game stretch before the playoff clinch, Senn rushed for more than 900 yards.
“He’s a good player,” Sweet Water coach Stacy Luker said about Senn. “Anytime you go over 900 yards in three games, I don’t care what level of football you’re playing at — it speaks volumes for you, and your offensive line.
“He’s a great running back, runs downhill and is a physical guy,” he said. “We’ve got to get after him on Friday.”
To help try and stop Senn from gaining yardage against the Bulldogs, Sweet Water linebacker and Auburn commitment Chris Landrum will be waiting in the back field. This will be Landrum’s first game back after sustaining an injury early this season. But, senior Devann White has stepped in for Landrum, and has netted more than 100 tackles so far.
On the offensive side of the ball, Sweet Water junior running back Michael Thompson led the team in rushing with 1,009 yards before getting a concussion in the first half of last week’s game against Leroy. According to the Demopolis Times, Thompson will not play on Friday night. In Thompson’s place, sophomore running back Deon Waters will take the load on the ground for the Bulldogs.
Bradford said Sweet Water likes to run a lot of misdirection in its offense, where the Wing-T is used.
“We haven’t faced a true Wing-T team,” Bradford said. “The closest team we’ve played that uses that formation are Geneva County and Kinston — offensive sets wise.
“They’re very similar to what they’re doing,” he said. “It’s something these guys have seen before. The formation causes you to be disciplined, and play assignment football.”
Luker said for his team to have any success against Pleasant Home’s front, then he’ll have to use his team’s “speed.”
“I hope that we’re a little faster,” Luker said. “I hope that we can use our speed, but you can never tell until you get into a game. We’re just unfmailiar with them, and what they do.
“I have a feeling it’s going to be a night where we’re going to have to make adjustments on the fly,” he said.
Bradford added that to get a win Friday night, the tempo has to be set.
“For us to be successful, we’re just going to really set the tempo, and be the more aggressive of the two teams bringing the fight to them,” Bradford said, “and really trying to challenge them with what we do. That’s where it’s all going to come down to — controlling the line of scrimmage, and who is more physical.”