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Tigers gunning for playoff momentum

The Greenville Tigers’ sluggish start Friday against the Rehobeth Rebels was the exception rather than the rule.

Two early turnovers—including an interception on the second play from scrimmage and a fumble at the Rebels’ 12-yard line were momentum-halting roadblocks in the first quarter.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter much—the Tigers ran away in subsequent quarters to the tune of a 42-13 victory. But Josh McLendon, Greenville’s head football coach, says that it can’t—and won’t—happen again.

“We’ve addressed it, and we’re going to move on from there,” McLendon said. “I don’t expect it to be a problem again—I think it was just one of those nights.  We just want to come out and play like we’ve been playing in the past, have a good week of practice and try to get better today and focus on tomorrow when it gets here.”

A win against this week’s opponent, the Hillcrest-Evergreen Jaguars, would allow the Tigers to finish with a 10-0 record, the first in more than half a decade.

But McLendon hasn’t given the feat that much thought.  In his mind, the ultimate goal—a state championship—dwarfs a perfect regular season.

“I don’t know if I’ve thought that much about it,” McLendon said. “It’s a great honor and it’s a testament to what our kids and our assistant coaches have done, but I’d rather go 5-0 in the next five weeks than go 10-0 in the first 10 weeks.”

But a more pressing issue for McLendon lies in slowing down a much-improved Class 3A Hillcrest-Evergreen team.

Despite some tough losses to Class 6A powerhouse Saraland (8-1) and Class 3A ringleaders Bayside Academy (7-2) and T.R. Miller (8-1), the Jaguars have still managed to outscore opponents 333-210 in nine games.

“They’re very athletic, very fast to the football and very aggressive,” McLendon said.

“They’re very impressive on film, and Coach Smith is doing a great job with those guys—he’s really using his athletes and putting those guys in the best position to be successful.”

And so the inevitable question arises—do you remove your starters and play conservatively to go into the playoffs with a healthy team, or keep your foot on the gas pedal?  For McLendon, there’s no question.

“I always like to have some momentum going into the playoffs, so we’re going to do what we need to do and not hold anything back,” McLendon said.

“We’re treating this like any other game we’ve played this year.”

The Tigers will travel to Evergreen to face the Jaguars for the final regular season game of the year.  Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.