Southern Discomfort

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 10, 2004

GREENSBORO – It hardly seems the right time to shuffle a starting line-up around. Listen to Southern Academy head coach Shaun Bonds talk, though, and you start to get a tad confused.

He’s got to move this kid to full back, so now the other kid has to play tight end, and that means he has a hole at wide receiver, which he doesn’t really need. An injury to West Alabama’s most prolific offensive weapon will make a coach talk crazy.

Erik Montz, the Cougars leading rusher, went down with a season-ending knee injury almost two weeks ago, and during Southern’s final regular-season game, starting center Allen Langham rumbled to the sideline in pain.

“We put him in at defensive end for one play – just one play – and he hurt his knee,” Bonds said Tuesday after practice. “He’s out there trying to play, but I don’t know if he’ll be able to go Friday.”

If Bonds and his Cougars are limping a bit this week, there may not be a better time. While the Southern head coach wouldn’t dare admit it, first-round opponent Chambers Academy isn’t necessarily the most potent squad. Toward the end of this season, Chambers racked up 31-0 and 41-0 losses to Lowndes Academy and Lee-Scott Academy, respectively.

“I’ll be honest,” Bonds quickly answered. “Every week there’s a chance for an upset, and we can’t take any team lightly.”

Maybe that’s why Bonds called his 3-hour practice on Tuesday a “light one.”

“We ran 40 offensive snaps, 30 defensive snaps, worked on our special teams and then worked on some fundamental drills,” he said. “It was a crisp practice and we’re trying to let the guys get their feet back under them.”

If ever there were a time for the Cougars to find their feet, this would be it. Southern ended its season with tough games against Pickens, Patrician and Shelby academies.

“That was a tough schedule, and I really think [the AISA] did it to us on purpose because we’re playing in [Class] 1A,” he said. “A lot of people around here think it was unfair.”

Even Bonds, with all his coaching experience, knows now isn’t the best time for excuses, and he sure doesn’t take any to the practice field with his players this week.

“All of our guys are stepping up,” Bonds said in respect to the Montz injury. “Wallace Drury, Taylor Broussard, Andrew Hoggle and Joey Christian have all done a good job, and they’ll help us on the field Friday night.”

Offensively, Southern appears to have the depth to make up for the loss of Montz. Defensively, they’ll enjoy facing a team that doesn’t have 1,000 different passing formations.

“They don’t really throw it that well,” Bonds said of the Chambers offensive attack. “Against Shelby and Patrician, we had to practice for 20 pass routes. For this game, they only show three pass routes.”

In fact, Bonds said Chambers has an offense that plays directly to the Cougars’ strength.

“They line up and run a power game right at you,” he said. “We’ve got more experience playing teams like that, so we’ve spent a lot of time this week working on fundamentals.”

On the other side of the ball, though, Bonds said he’ll spread his offense out a little more – though he doesn’t necessarily anticipate airing it out much.

“They’ve got six or seven guys who are bigger than 250,” he said. “They’ve got one kid who’s 350 and another one who’s 340. We’re not going to try to run it up the middle against those boys.”

Instead, Bonds said Drury, Broussard, Hoggle and Christian will run the ball outside the tackles, and he may show the option a few times.

“We’ve got a good bunch of kids,” he said. “I don’t know if we can make it all the way, but this is a good football team we’ve got. They’re focused.”

That may be the difference for Southern Academy on Friday night when they host Chambers Academy in the first round of the 1A state playoffs.