Bulldogs not looking past Eagles

Published 4:07 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The A.L. Johnson Eagles (3-6 overall, 2-2 in area play) are the next obstacle on the road to a championship for the Brantley Bulldogs.

And though the team boasts a rather unimpressive record, the Eagles are also members of a highly competitive region featuring top-tier Class 1A threats such as Maplesville and Linden.

But even if that weren’t the case, Brantley head football coach Ashley Kilcrease doesn’t care.  To him, everyone’s 0-0.

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“You can’t look ahead in the playoffs,” Kilcrease said. “That’s what I’ve been telling the guys all week.  We’ve been trying to focus on the fact that it’s a one-week season every week from here on out.  You have to plan for your opponent each week, because there’s not a next week. Our record doesn’t matter.  Everyone’s 0-0, and we’ve got to come to play.”

Despite a rather unassuming regular reason, Kilcrease added that underestimating the Eagles’ capabilities would mark the beginning and the end of the Bulldogs’ postseason.

“They have a really good running back/quarterback, and he’s elusive,” Kilcrease said. “We’ve struggled giving up the big play on defense all year, so we’ve got to limit him.  That’s how they score. We’ve got to be sound in the kicking game.  I think that’s one area where we have a big advantage.  And their defense really tries to come after the quarterback, so we’re going to have to protect the quarterback and not hold the football.  They have a lot of sacks and negative plays, but they also give up a lot of big plays.”

But perhaps the biggest obstacle to the Bulldogs’ success is the Bulldogs themselves.

The double-edged sword that is the Brantley legacy is both fuel for the engine and a heavy burden to bear.

“To me, the first round is the hardest because the expectations here are you’re going to win the first round—it’s just automatic,” Kilcrease said. “But nothing’s automatic in the playoffs.  We lost in 2010 in the first round to McIntosh, so I try to remind our kids that it can happen and we’ve got to be prepared mentally for a football game.”

Still, the mostly-consistent Bulldogs have stalled out early, giving out of gas in the opening quarters of play periodically throughout the season.

Kilcrease said that it can’t be a recurring theme in the playoffs if the Bulldogs are to be successful.

“We’ve done some really good things, and to be 8-2 from where we started, we’re pleased with the effort of our kids,” Kilcrease said. “But to carry on the tradition and legacy that we have here, we have to be perfect, to a degree.

“This team has been very much a slow-starting team.  We fell behind with Luverne and tried to mount a comeback.  We fell behind to Georgiana, Red Level and with Goshen. Just not being mentally focused early is a big negative that we’ve had to overcome, so that’s our focus for Thursday.  We’ve got to come out and play early.”

The Bulldogs will host the visiting Eagles Thursday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.