McKenzie aiming to knock off top Class 1A threat
A narrow six-point loss to Brantley in the battle for the second seed two weeks ago was a reversal of fortune for the McKenzie Tigers. The team went from hosting A.L. Johnson in the first round of the playoffs to traveling to face the Linden Patriots.
Though McKenzie head coach Tony Norris said that the challenge facing his team this Friday is a bit stiffer as a result, the ultimate plan is to beat every team anyway.
“It’s just like I told the kids, we’re going to have to play Linden to go where we want to go—it’s just that now we’re going to have to play them in the first round,” Norris said. “You’re going to have to play good teams if you want to survive and advance to the end. Either way, we’re going to have to play Linden, whether it’s round or another round, so the big thing is to get ready to play a good football team and see what happens at the end of the night.”
But beating the Linden Patriots is a feat easier said than done, as only two teams have proven during the 2015 regular season—one being the undefeated and top-ranked Class 1A juggernaut, the Maplesville Red Devils, and the other the Class 5A powerhouse St. Pauls Saints.
“Linden is a very fast and athletic team, and they’re physical, also,” Norris said. “Coach Williams has done a great job ever since he’s been over there.
“On defense, they bring a lot of people to the party and create a lot of havoc at the line of scrimmage, so that’s what makes them quick on defense. Offensively, they like to run the football, but they’ll throw it when they need to. They’ve got some really good linemen and a couple of good backs, so we’re just going to have to be ready to stop the run and adjust for the pass.”
Fortunately, the Tigers have had double the preparation time thanks to a bye week at the conclusion of the regular season.
The majority of the off time was spent preparing specifically for Linden and resting the various bumps and bruises accrued throughout the previous 11 weeks.
Unfortunately, the Tigers are currently facing a situation similar to many teams throughout the state—whether to push the game up a full day to Thursday in order to avoid Friday night’s inclement weather.
While losing a day of preparation isn’t ideal, Norris said that he has confidence in the Tigers’ preparation thus far.
“Eventually, you’re going to have to play, whether it’s a Thursday night or a Friday night,” Norris said. “When that ball’s kicked off, it really doesn’t make any difference any more.”
The Tigers are tentatively set to face off with the Patriots Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.