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Fort Dale aims for title

For the first time in eight seasons, the Fort Dale Eagles are making the drive to Troy for the AISA state championship game.

Once they get there, they’ll find a familiar opponent — the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots.

The first time around, the Patriots came away with a 22-16 win on Fort Dale’s home field, and the Eagles will be looking to return the favor.

That game was marred by a number of miscues for both teams, and head coach Speed Sampley said that jumped out at him as he watched film from the game.

“It was a sloppy, sloppy game on both sides of the ball for us, and for them too,” he said. “It wasn’t pretty. We both played pretty badly, and we’ve certainly got to play better this time.”

In last Friday night’s game against Bessemer Academy, Fort Dale dominated the game with a powerful rushing attack and ball control.

Sampley said those two things will be key against Pike.

“Against Bessemer, things couldn’t have gone much better,” he said. “We possessed the ball probably for about three quarters of the game, and that kept their offense off the field. We have to do the same thing to Pike.”

“Everything we tried against Bessemer worked to some extent, and we didn’t have any mistakes,” Sampley continued. “We need to do that and play grind-it-out football.”

With that mindset, Friday’s match is shaping up to be a good, old-fashioned smash-mouth football game.

Fort Dale will undoubtedly rely on running backs Jeffrey Stead and Daniel Nolan, while much of Pike Lib’s offense revolves around tailback Jerel Foster.

“Everybody has to do their job on defense,” Sampley said. “If we focus solely on Jerel, the quarterback and fullback option will kill us. However, we do expect him to carry it a good bit, and we’ll have to gang tackle him when he does.”

One of the goals for the team this week will be focusing on the game, and Sampley started reinforcing that point after the Bessemer win.

“Everyone wants to tell them what a great job they’ve done, and they have,” he said. “We want to win one more big game, and until we do that, there’s a job to be done and we’re going to try to focus on it.”

The game is set for 4 p.m. Friday afternoon at Movie Gallery Stadium in Troy.

There will be a bonfire and pep rally held Thursday night at 6 p.m. at Fort Dale’s stadium.