• 95°

McKenzie vying for No. 2 seed, hosting rights

The McKenzie Tigers are looking forward, not backwards, this Friday as the team prepares to host the visiting Red Level Tigers.

McKenzie head football coach Tony Norris said that priority No. 1 has been relaying to his players the importance of Friday’s matchup.  Though the stakes for region champ are in the rearview mirror, there is still plenty left to fight for.

“We still have a chance to host the first-round playoff game,” Norris said. “It’s still a big deal to this community, it’s a big deal to these kids and it’s a big deal to me.  Every year I want to try to do something that we didn’t accomplish in the past year.  A win Friday night will give us one more in the win column than we had last year, and we’ll still have a chance to host the first round of the playoffs.

“It’s the next one on the agenda, so we need to be focused on the task at hand, and that’s Red Level.  They’ve got a good football team, and if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, then we’re going to have a long night this coming Friday.”

The Red Level Tigers enter Friday night’s matchup with a 3-4 record.  Despite hitting a three-game winning streak at the halfway point of the season, Red Level endured a three-game gauntlet of tough opponents, including Georgiana, Brantley and now McKenzie. 

With only two region games remaining for Red Level, Norris expects a tough fight.

Fortunately, with the return of Daniel Gaston at quarterback, the McKenzie offense is as diverse as ever. But then again, so is Red Level’s offense.

“Red Level is a very good, very physical team, from what I’ve seen on film,” Norris said. “The biggest thing is that we’re going to have to control the line of scrimmage, whether it’s offense or defense. That’s half the battle.   

“Red Level has a good running back, John Lee, and he is somebody who will hurt you if you don’t pay attention to him.  They have a couple of big and physical receivers who we’ll have to watch out for, and their quarterback doesn’t do a bad job of managing the game and putting it in the hands of the people who can win the game.”

To add to Friday night’s excitement, the matchup with Red Level also marks senior night for McKenzie. 

And though the critical region win would prove major for McKenzie’s playoff hopes, Norris suspects that his team will need little motivation on the big night.

“Any time you play a game at home, and in this particular case, senior night, you want to make sure you go out there with a big effort and give the home crowd a good showing,” Norris said.

“So you want to send them out on a good note with them being honored for all of their hard work and dedication to the program they’ve had for the past few years.”

McKenzie will host its last home game of the regular season Friday, with a kickoff slated for 7 p.m.