Tigers face must-win game with Rams

Published 6:29 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Greenville quarterback Brandon Simmons (left) looks downfield while Dedric Owens provides pass protection.

Greenville quarterback Brandon Simmons (left) looks downfield while Dedric Owens provides pass protection.

It’s do or die for Greenville High School’s playoff aspirations this Friday as the Tigers travel to face the Headland Rams.

But the same is true for their opponent.  The Rams, though 3-3 overall, have dropped all three of their region games to Rehobeth, Carroll and Booker T. Washington.

With only three remaining region games for the Rams, and all consecutive, the month of October will either make or break the team’s playoff hopes.

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Headland’s circumstances are eerily similar to Greenville’s, with each team facing a gauntlet of region games to close out the final month of the regular season—all of which makes Friday night’s faceoff even more significant.

“We’re kind of in the same boat,” said Greenville head football coach Josh McLendon.

“We’re looking to pick up some momentum going into the last few weeks of the season, and I’m sure they’re looking to do the same.  I feel like we’ve improved each week, and I guess the frustrating thing is that we don’t have much to show for it.  But the kids’ attitudes are still good, and we’re not going to quit fighting.”

The Rams are one of two completely new opponents that the Tigers have never faced, and the first of two new faces in Class 5A Region 2. The other, the undefeated Carroll Eagles (4-0 in region play) descended from Class 6A, while the Rams arrive from Class 4A.

Headland has experienced some trouble in the transition to a new tier of opponents, as evidenced by their difficulty in keeping pace with their opponents’ offense.  In six games, the Rams have been outscored 132-95, allowing a defensive average of 22 points per game.

But for McLendon, taking any team lightly is the first step toward an early defeat.

“I don’t think you can take any opponent lightly,” McLendon said. “Any team can be beaten on any night.  We sure can’t take anybody for granted, so we’ve got to treat everybody the same, whether it’s Headland, Eufaula or whoever. 

“Right now, we have no room to assume anything, with where we’re at.  We’ve got to do our work, and continue to try to get better.  And if we do, we’ll be alright.”

This past week, the Tigers have studied just as much of their own film as the Rams’.  Greenville’s battle with Eufaula revealed a strong amount of effort, but a few blown assignments reversed otherwise solid defensive and offensive efforts.

“I thought we played extremely hard on both sides of the ball,” McLendon said. “But we’re just not getting it done at certain times.  We have chances to make certain plays, whether it be a deep ball or a chance to fake a punt or whatever it might be.  Those opportunities present themselves during the game and you have to be able to capitalize on those moments, and I don’t feel like we’ve been able to do that so far.

“You can’t let one play define the entire play or the entire drive.  You just have to keep fighting and keep going.  We understand that they’re going to make plays, but you just have to be resilient and keep fighting.”

The Tigers will attempt to break even in region play Friday against the hosting Rams.  Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.