McKenzie, Brantley to contend for No. 2

Published 11:28 am Wednesday, October 19, 2016

 Jacquez Smith proved his talent on offense as well as defense in Friday night’s win over Red Level.

Jacquez Smith proved his talent on offense as well as defense in Friday night’s win over Red Level.

The McKenzie Tigers find themselves contending with a serious case of déjà vu this week as the team travels to Brantley for a high-stakes region game.

In circumstances eerily similar to last year’s close match between the two teams, both the Tigers and the Bulldogs will be squaring off for the No. 2 seed of Class 1A Region 2, as well as the right to host the first round of the playoffs.

McKenzie head football coach Tony Norris said he’s aiming for a different outcome than last year’s close 22-16 loss to the Bulldogs.

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“Brantley is obviously still a very good football team,” Norris said.

“They’ve still got their quarterback from last year, who is a Division I guy who is committed to Vanderbilt.  He can throw that thing around, so we’ll have to be prepared to defend the pass a little bit more than we usually do.  And they don’t do a bad job of running the ball.

“Defensively, they like to get after you a little bit.  Brantley is always Brantley.  They’re a well-coached, big and physical football team year-in and year-out, so moving into the game we’ve got to understand what we’re going against.”

Slowing down this year’s Bulldogs is easier said than done, however.  Brantley has averaged more than 46 points per game this season while keeping four teams to just six points or fewer.

Fortunately, the Tigers have experience in curtailing high-powered offenses. Though this week’s strategy will test the Tigers’ defensive unit in new and interesting ways.

“My defensive staff has come up with a good game plan,” Norris said. “We can all come up with game plans as coaches, but we’re going to have to rely on our players to execute on the things that we ask them to do.  That’s what it boils down to every Friday night; you’re asking 15-18 year-old kids to do what you’ve taught them to do all week, so it’s going to be quite a challenge. 

“We are asking some guys to do some things that we haven’t asked them to do in the past, but going into the playoffs that’s what we’re going to need.”

The Tigers travel to Brantley Friday for a shot at the No. 2 seed.  Kickoff is set at 7 p.m.