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FDA faces first test in Pike on road

The Fort Dale Eagles will face its first real test of the season on the road Friday night against the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots.

FDA head football coach James “Speed” Sampley said that though the Patriots graduated a number of players last season, they are no less lethal in 2017 than they were the year before.

A spotless 3-0 Patriots record thus far, in which Pike has outscored opponents 117-54, would seem to confirm that.

“First of all, they’re the best team we’ve played, and second of all they’re our first region game, which is extremely important to both them and us,” Sampley said.

“They were mostly seniors last year, and they graduated a good many of their players. But they’ve got some younger guys who have stepped up, and they’re returning a quarterback who’s really good. They’ve also picked up a few kids over the summer, so we expect them to have a pretty good football team.”

The Eagles and the Patriots have traded back and forth for the past several years, though home field advantage falls to Pike Liberal Arts this year.

Despite the high-stakes nature of a first region clash on the road, Sampley and the Eagles aren’t worried about the trip into ostensibly hostile territory.

“Sometimes, I’d rather play on the road because there’s not as much dead time; you’re doing something, and you’re on the bus trying to get somewhere instead of just waiting,” he said.

“Everybody has their own way of doing that, but I don’t mind playing on the road.  And I don’t think their kids do.”

Though how the Eagles match up with the Patriots is a question that continues to elude Sampley.

Sampley said that Patriots are an order of magnitude better than the Eagles’ first two opponents, noting their agile linemen and talented skill players who stand a cut above their competition thus far this season.

Despite that, Sampley knows exactly what the Eagles absolutely cannot do.

“We can’t make turnovers,” he said. “We’re going to have to tackle well, and we’ve got to make plays when we do get an opportunity to make them. We can’t afford to drop passes, and we can’t afford to miss blocks.  When you’re playing a team that you outmatch, sometimes you get away with things.  But I don’t think that’ll be the case [Friday night].

“I read a quote from a coach this summer that I’ve been quoting to my football players all summer:  more games are lost because of missed alignments and missed assignments than through physical mismatches.  What that tells us is that we have to do our thing and the rest will take care of itself. We’ve got to be prepared, we’ve got to execute, cover on special teams and do everything you’re supposed to do.  And if Pike wants to help us out and turn it over, that’s great, but you can’t count on that every time.”

The Eagles travel to Pike Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.