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Tigers host Ariton in home opener

For the first time this season, the McKenzie Tigers are taking to the field at their home stadium for a big region match against Ariton.

The Purple Cats have a new coach in Rudy Free, who came over from the defensive coordinator position at Elba.

“He is used to winning and being successful, and he’s instilling that in the kids,” said McKenzie head coach Miles Brown.

However, Ariton is a young team with only four seniors and four juniors.

“They’re relying on the leadership of Craig Sanders and the other seniors,” Brown said.

Sanders is a highly recruited player who has committed to the University of Alabama.

The Tigers come into the game with a couple of players battling swine flu, but one of the main concerns has been the ankle of quarterback Calvin Henderson.

Henderson started practice last week, and Brown said he expects Henderson to see some playing time against Ariton.

Running back Armond Ball was nearly named Offensive Player of the Week by the Alabama Sports Writers Association for his 302-yard rushing performance against Florala, but he was edged out by Jeremy Richardson of Springville.

Kickoff for this week’s game against Ariton is set for 7 p.m.

“We’re just glad to be at home — we’re always happy to play in front of a home crowd,” Brown said.