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Eagles prep for three-game stretch of region play

The Fort Dale Academy Eagles (5-1) are gunning for one of its best seasons in recent memory. 

But despite the success the team has enjoyed in the first half of the regular season, it’s a pivotal second half—specifically, the next three games—that will define the team’s playoff fate.

The Eagles return to region play against Morgan Academy after a lengthy hiatus, but the break has allowed the Eagles to build steam against quality non-region opponents.

According to Fort Dale head football coach James “Speed” Sampley, those non-region games have impacted the Eagles’ season in a meaningful way.

“It gives you a chance to get experience and do the best you can with what you’ve got to work with in the early part of the year,” Sampley said.

“Now we’ve got a three-game stretch here of region games that we’ve got to play well in to see where we’re going to stand when it’s all said and done.”

The 5-1 Eagles are only 1-1 in the region, which is not an uncommon story in Region 2.  A four-way tie for second place exists between Fort Dale, Northside Methodist, Pike Liberal Arts and Morgan Academy.  Only Monroe Academy remains spotless in region play.

With three region games in a row, the road ahead doesn’t get any less bumpy from here.  Next week is Monroe, the leaders of the conference thus far.  For Sampley, a win Friday night could mean everything.

“If we can win Friday night, it will guarantee a playoff berth, first of all,” Sampley said. “Secondly, It will give us a little momentum for the remainder of the regular season, and we’ll go on from there.

“But Morgan has got a good football team, so it won’t be easy.”

The Senators (4-2) have lit up the scoreboard this season to the tune of 28 points per game, though they’ve allowed nearly just as many with 22.6 points given up defensively on average.

This year’s Senators team has a few more tricks up its sleeve than those of years past. Last year’s game was decided by a single touchdown and, according to Sampley, this year’s game could prove just as close.

“They’ve got some kids with really good speed, and that creates a problem for us, obviously,” Sampley said. “They’ve got a new coach, and he’s pretty innovative on offense.  They do a lot of stuff that makes it hard for you to get lined up. 

“And we’re going to have to play assignment defense and not make mistakes; and offensively, we have to do what we do, which is try to keep the ball away from them and make sure we’ve got it most of the time.”

The Eagles travel to Morgan Academy Friday night in search of their second region win.  Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.