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Sampley hoping to wake up slumping FDA

Published 3:28pm Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Desperate times call for desperate measures – or at the least a departure from the norm.

Following a 42-14 loss to Class AA Wilcox Academy Friday night, Fort Dale Academy head coach James “Speed” Sampley knew he had to do something to get his team’s attention.

Sampley, who has been a head coach in the Alabama Independent School Association for 20 years, decided to try something he’s never done before.

He called for a Sunday practice.

“I’ve never done it in all my years of coaching,” Sampley said. “But it’s do-or-die time.”

The Eagles, who have lost three in a row and four of their last six, open the postseason Friday night against Kingwood Christian School, which is making its first trip to the playoffs since 2007.

While the sting of the Eagles’ last three losses, which have been by an average of 19 points, is still fresh, they begin a new season Friday night.

If Fort Dale, which won its only state championship in 2010, hopes to take the crown again, it will first have to defeat a Kingwood Christian team that has undergone a resurgence under first-year head coach Steve Birmingham.

In the two seasons before Birmingham took over at the helm of the Lions’ program, the team won just six games.

This past season, the Lions have already won eight.

That’s due in large part to the play of third-year quarterback Gavin Sumrall, wide receiver Montez Haynes and tight end and University of Florida commitment C’Yontai Lewis.

The trio has helped the Kingwood Christian offense score 353 points this season. In seven of their eight wins, the Lions have scored 30 or more points.

Sampley knows that the Eagles, who have given up 34, 52 and 42 points in their last three games, must play better on defense if they hope to advance to the second round.

“We’ve got to a better job of tackling,” Sampley said following the Eagles’ loss to Wilcox. “We haven’t tackled anyone in the last couple of games. We’ve given up too many big plays. We’ve got to get better on defense. If not, it’ll be a short trip (through the playoffs).”

The Eagles, who were without seven starters to begin the game last week, also struggled on offense. Fort Dale managed just 212 yards of total offense and scored just one offensive touchdown.

“If guys are out, we need other guys to step up and make plays,” Sampley said. “It’s that’s simple.”

The Eagles (6-4) and the Lions will face off at 7 p.m. in Greenville.

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