Eagles face powerhouse Bessemer

Published 5:22 pm Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Though the Fort Dale Academy Eagles’ final regional opponent was last week, their quest for the playoffs is only just beginning.

This week’s obstacle, the Bessemer Academy Rebels, is a nearly identical team in terms of their success this season.

Both teams only share one loss to Monroe Academy, the current top dog in Class AAA, and both teams are eager for a second shot.

Email newsletter signup

And though the Rebels’ path to revenge lies in a different bracket, Fort Dale and Bessemer could meet in the semifinals.

In that sense, Friday’s matchup is a potential sign of things to come.

“They’re well coached, they’ve got some good size up front, they run the ball well and they play good defense,” said Fort Dale head coach James Sampley.

For Sampley, though, there’s one element that clearly distinguishes them from previous competition.

“But they are exceptional on special teams,” he said. “They’ve got some athletes out there.  They block kicks, they return kicks, and they set up their offense in good position with kick returns.  They’re really good special teams-wise.

“We obviously have to work on our special teams and not give up our field position and not give up three touchdowns that you don’t have to earn.  And we’ve got to be able to return the ball a little ourselves and get our offense a little better position.”

Sampley added that Friday night’s battle could boil down to whichever side’s special teams prevail, but — at least for the Eagles — that is a worst-case scenario.

“That’s what we’ve got to keep it from doing, because their special teams are a little bit better than ours right now,” Sampley said. “I think we kick the ball just as well as they do, but their return game is so much better than ours.”

Ultimately, practice for the Eagles this week will stress not just one, but all aspects of the game.

As the season winds down, teams that specialize in one area won’t make it very far, but teams that don’t improve week-to-week fare even worse.

“The key to this whole thing is getting better by November,” Sampley said.

“It doesn’t matter how good you are — at the end of the day, the teams that advance get better during the year.”

The Eagles and Rebels face off Friday at 7 p.m. in Greenville.