Fort Dale, Morgan set for Area rumble

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 20, 2004

It's all about bracket position.

Friday night's game is not for an area championship. Faith is already in a position to claim that distinction.

Friday night is about who stays at home and who travels in the first round. This game will determine who enters the playoffs as the No. 2 seed and who will enter as the No. 3.

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What better way to find out where a team stands than by challenging a champion. Friday night, Fort Dale will travel to Selma to meet defending AAA state champion Morgan Academy.

"Being the state champions has put a lot of pressure on us to try to repeat," said Robert Gartman, coach of the Morgan Senators. "We had one loss early in the season to Edgewood. But we've improved every week up until last week and then we kind of regressed. Every game we play from here on out is going to be nip and tuck. Fort Dale's going to be a toss up. It could go either way. We are probably quicker, but they are stronger than we are."

Both schools enter into Friday night's contest coming off wins. The Eagles knocked off the Cottage Hill Warriors 26-21 for homecoming.

"We did some good things Friday night," said James Sampley, coach of the Eagles.

We didn't play with a lot of concentration and that's something we can fix. Homecoming took a toll on us. But this week, I think we will be concentrating and be ready to play. I think we've got to do a lot of fundamental work and we'll be ready to play."

In their victory, Fort Dale moved up and down the field against the Cottage Hill defense. As a team, the Eagles finished the night with 465 yards of total offense. They were led by junior tailback Tim James. James finished the night with 29 carries for 236 yards and two touchdowns.

"We don't go in trying to stop the tailback," said Gartman. "Coach Sampley's offense is a fullback-based offense. We can't stack eight or nine guys on the line trying to stop the James kid. All he'd have to do is slide the fullback on traps or throw the ball. But, we are going to have to be sound on everything we do, fullback, tailback and the passing game."

The Morgan Senators outlasted the Monroe Volunteers, 14-6.

"Morgan has won so many state championships that we probably can't count all of them," Sampley said.

"They won it last year. They are well coached. Robert Gartmen and his staff do a great job. They are going to be fundamentally sound and are going to run the ball at you and throw it some. Defensively they are going to line up and play solid the hole game. And their kicking game is very consistent. We can't give them thing. We've got to make them earn everything they get."

When Morgan lines up for offense, they run a split backfield.

Currently, the Senators are 6-0, unbeaten in the region.

Fort Dale is 3-1 in the region with their loss coming from Faith two weeks ago.

In Class AAA West Region, Faith is the No. 1 team with an unbeaten record. Morgan is behind them, but has one non-region loss.

Fort Dale is in the third position with two losses, but only one region loss. Mobile Christian is in the fourth position with two regional losses.

"This game is going to determine seeding," Sampley said. "Mobile, Morgan and us are playing to determine who's the higher seed. One of us is going to take a step up on the other after this week, but it won't really be determined until the last week."

As it stands right now, if the playoffs were to begin this Friday, the top four teams from the East are Bessemer, Edgewood, Pike and Glenwood.

"It's really an unusual year," Gartman said. "It's still a case where any of four schools

could still win the region and any of them could still come in fourth. If we win out or if Fort Dale wins out, either of us could win the region. If we lose but beat Faith then we could still win the region. This just shows that there is a lot more balance in the area, and there are a lot more quality coaching going on. The athletes have gotten a lot better."

Next week, the Senators will travel to Faith. For Morgan, the match-up with the Rams will be a rematch from a year ago.

In 2003, the Senators made it into the playoffs as a No. 2 seed behind the Area Champion Rams.

The two teams battled through the playoff brackets until they met at the newly remodeled Movie Gallery Stadium.

The Sens knocked off the Rams 16-13 in the AAA state championship.

In AISA, the No. 1 and No. 2 team stays home and the No. 3 and No. 4 team travels.