Prattville's La'Angelo Albright
One game, two teams with the same goal trying to seize the same prize. Friday night one of the team’s plans will prevail and another will have had a great season, but not a championship. Prattville (11-1) will rumble with Davidson (11-2) for the chance to play for the 6A title in Birmingham next week.
Both teams have proved their mettle, but the strategy of both these teams are pretty clear. Prattville’s plan is the same as it has been all season. They want to go for the Warriors’ jugular right away, while Davidson wants to avoid the fate of many of the Lions’ opponents who have fallen behind and never saw daylight again.
The Lions have shut out seven of their 12 opponents including last week’s undefeated Auburn High School (12-1) 42-0. The only blemish on their record was a 15-10 loss to St. Xavier in the Herbstreit Classic for first year head coach and former assistant Jamey Dubose.
Dubose’s offense seemed to struggle at the beginning of the season, but he and his staff have cagily put up game plans that would limit mistakes from his inexperienced offense while leaning heavily on their menacing defense.
It didn’t take long for the offense to catch up.
“We knew we were going to be a good football team,” Dubose said. “We just didn’t have a whole lot of people that had a lot of game experience on offense."
"We traveled 12-14 hours away from home (in the first game) and went to Ohio. We had nine brand new faces on the offensive side when we played. We had a new quarterback and pretty much, a new offensive line and all new skill players outside the spread offense."
"We needed some growing time and some game experience. We had not gotten that. Our pre-season game with Oxford was cancelled. So it was kind of an unknown, a hostile environment, and of course just the fact that we had so many distractions away from home. It was a lot to ask of those new guys stepping up, but we played a decent game.”
“We made a vow coming back home that as an offensive unit, we were going to get better each and every week and work at it. I think a lot of the credit goes to our offensive line. They have really grown stronger as the year went on and took it on their shoulders to protect our quarterback and our running backs. They are doing a great job.”
Prattville depends on junior quarterback Sam Gibson (6-2, 200) to manage their offense. He has completed 82-of-144 passing attempts for 960 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has thrown seven interceptions including two last week against Auburn. However, the junior put the ball into opposing hands three times in the first game and in the next nine games he was picked only twice.
Gibson has also rushed for 501 yards on 90 carries and scored another eight touchdowns on the ground.
“Our quarterback has matured greatly,” Dubose said. “If you see where he came from game one to now you would see a totally different person. He’s done a wonderful job leading his team. He has matured not only as a person, but as a player as the year went on.”
“All-in-all I think the coaches and the players on the offensive side know it was just a continual work and staying with the process and staying with the plan. We knew it was going to happen. We just needed to get the group together and get everybody some game experience and get the cobwebs out a little bit.”
Defensively, the Lions have never stuck a toe in the wrong place. The team has allowed an average of only seven points per game and a season high 20 from Sidney Lanier.
The squad is led by senior standouts like La’Angelo Albright (6-0, 190) and Octavius Gilbert (5-9, 190) at linebacker. The two have accounted for 222 tackles, 12.5 sacks for a loss of 102 yards.
Senior defensive linemen Alex Page (6-2, 220) leads up front with 90 tackles and 16 sacks for a loss of 119 yards.
The Prattville defensive unit has produced a jarring 64 sacks on the season for a total loss of 449 yards.
“We knew we were coming back with about six strong returners that have been big parts of the football program since they were sophomores,” Dubose said of his defense.
“We knew they were going to have to be our leading catalyst for the year and keep us in the games and keep us moving and give us an opportunity to win. Still today, they make our offense look good each and every week."
"It’s easy to go play offense when you get the ball on a short field, maybe midfield going in. They have done a wonderful job just giving the offense the ball in good position, and the opportunity to score. They have created a lot of scores themselves.”
“The defensive line and the linebackers are probably the strength of it all. That is just a great group there. We have got about five-six guys that roll in on the defensive line, and then we’ve got our two linebackers that have been in there for a while. Gilbert and Albright have done remarkable jobs over the last three years. They are just leaders of that group.”
“Then in the secondary you have Zach Brownell (6-2, 210) that basically has been a two-year starter for us and played as a sophomore. He gets us in all the right coverages, all the right checks."
"It is just a senior-laden group, and a group that has been in the fires and the wars. They are on a mission to try and get this thing done one more time.”
Brownell has recorded 43 tackles and picked off three passes this year.
If all that isn’t daunting enough they have a senior kicker who gives them a distinct advantage in most games. He may very well be the best in the state.
“It’s remarkable to have a weapon like Brian Egan (6-0, 205),” Dubose said. “As a coach, you always want somebody like him. Not only is he giving you the opportunity to score points every time you cross the 50 by kicking a field goal, but you also have the opportunity to set your defense in good field position because of his kickoffs.”
“He has just done a wonderful job with handling all the different kicks for us that we do. He is a guy that has a big time leg. When people come in and say “coach who’s your SEC players” and we have a couple here or there, but Brian Egan is the first one that comes to mind. He could kick at any level."
"He’s hit from 52 and 51 yards this year. Just a solid guy, a big time competitor, and I think that’s what makes him so good is just his competitiveness.”
The Lions limited Auburn to only 93 total yards on 60 offensive plays last week. They have blocked punts on special teams in the last two games. Their season leading 1,200 yard rusher, running back Jerodis Williams (5-11, 185) ran for 156 yards on 15 carries scoring twice.
We asked Coach Dubose if his team has even surprised him with their dominating 42-0 win over Auburn.
“We talk about fast starts to our kids, offensively, defensively, special teams,” Dubose said. “We’re getting blocked kicks for touchdowns. Offensively, we’re going down scoring on the opening drive which is a huge lift, and then we are getting shut-outs on the defensive side."
"Last week it was a quick 14-0 before you know it. Opelika was another quick 14-0. I think when you get off to a fast start like that you are able to play a little more relaxed.”
“At the same time, it is a little shocking,” Dubose admitted. “You can use the word peaking. We probably hit a peak at a good time, right as we went into the playoffs."
"Our guys are really playing well together, and they just want to go and get this thing completed. They want to finish out doing something that I think only two teams in the state of Alabama have been able to pull off, three-peat. I think only Sidney Lanier and Hoover were able to do that.”
“They have talked about doing something to be remembered by. One of the things they want to do is put up a better performance in each round of the playoffs than we have ever done. So far, we have been able to pull that off.”
“Hopefully, we’ve got two games in front of us if we could be lucky enough to get to the state championship game. I’m not looking for that. I’m just looking to win if we can. I think we’ll take the wins however they come.”
Prattville travels this week to take on the Coach Fred Riley’s impressive option offensive and a defensive squad who have accumulated a staggering 12 interceptions in the last three games.
Davidson’s first goal, says Riley, is to survive the first quarter and stand their ground.
“Prattville is really old-school in their game, they play field position," Riley said. "They are so good in the kicking game. They run the ball and manage the game well. They aren’t dangerous with the ball, they hand it off and when they throw it, they throw it outside or deep. They wait on you to blink or flinch. We can’t have any drama.”
The Warriors defeated Murphy last week 27-7 with big performances by junior quarterback Jarrell Smith (5-11, 193) with 203 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Senior running back Martin Broughton ran for 139 yards with two more scores. The team as a whole rushed for 380 yards and netted zero yards through the air with two incomplete passes, which was a calculated move the Warriors may try to employ this week.
Murphy’s outstanding junior quarterback Matt Rowser saw 18 of his 25 passes fall incomplete or picked off last week. Davidson’s Keairon Wilson (5-11, 190) had both of Rowser’s interceptions.
The Warriors’ success is not lost on Dubose.
“Davidson is an excellent football team. They have a quarterback and running back that can “go” on the offensive side," he said. "They give you a lot of headaches if you don’t know how to handle the option. It’s a big responsibility type deal."
"You have got to be accountable for your area and your gap, able to handle all those situations. If not, all it takes is one person being out of place and there goes the quarterback for 60-70 yards untouched."
"They have got a lot of firepower. They play a very physical brand of football, and it is going to be a challenge for our defense. We are going to try and rise up and answer the call once again and keep this momentum rolling."
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