WAP, SAC coaches say it’s all about football
Published 12:00 am Friday, October 7, 2005
At a glance, the football teams for West Alabama Preparatory and Southern Academy couldn’t be more different. WAP is suffering through a painful 0-6 season while Southern is riding an 18-game winning streak. Southern has one of the deepest rosters in the state while WAP is razor-thin. Southern head coach Shaun Bonds has decades of experience while WAP interim head man Marshall Murphy is in his first year.
Those differences were thrown into even sharper relief this off-season when multiple players transferred from WAP to Southern, sparking conversation throughout the area about rising hostility between the two teams.
But WAP and Southern do have some things in common–starting with head coaches who say the talk of acrimony between the teams has been exaggerated and won’t have any impact on the game the two will play Friday night in Demopolis.
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“I don’t think there’s any tension between the schools. I don’t have any animosity towards them,” Bonds says. “We’re just approaching this as we would any other game. It’s not any big emotional thing…it’s just another game for our team.”
Murphy agrees, saying that what dislike there might be on the playing field is not a product of either coaching staff, and isn’t anything more than one would expect in your average high school football rivalry.
“I think coach Bonds is a stand-up guy,” Murphy says. “He’s definitely not out there to injure our boys or anything. He’s trying to prepare his team for the playoffs. The great majority of animosity, what there is, will be with the players. But it’s like that any time a school plays a rival. The guys who are playing and going against their old teammates are going to enjoy it, but it’s nothing more than what I would call a rivalry.”
Bonds says the fact that some of his players will be facing their old teammates won’t have any effect on the Cougars’ preparation or play Friday night.
“Once they came here we forget about the circumstances of why. We just try to coach them to the best of their abilities,” he says. “We’ve got our hands full maintaining what we’ve been doing. We’re not worrying about any animosity out there… We’re more concerned about playing well, if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”
There are other similarities as well. Both teams come into this week’s game limping, as the Titans will be dressing only 14 players out after beginning the season with 20 and Southern will be missing three key starters as well: fullback and defensive tackle Chase Compton, center Allen Langham, and safety Matt Collins.
Compton suffered a knee injury in Southern’s game against Central last week after a chop block Bonds emphatically stated was unrelated to the Central coaching staff but was nonetheless “unnecessary.” The injury was diagnosed as a torn ACL initially and the knee will undergo arthroscopic surgery soon. Bonds says Compton might return for the state title game since the Cougars might progress that far and that the injury might not be as bad as first feared.
“But that’s a lot of mights,” he adds. Langham and Collins will be out with nagging ankle injuries.
But Southern’s injury woes, it could be argued, might still pale to those suffered by the Titans. A team with little depth to begin with will be facing Southern without five starters: Parker Pruitt, Bobby Anderson, Weston Colgrove, Joseph Luker, and Scott Mitchell. Colgrove, Luker, and Mitchell are lost for the year.
Murphy says that his team knows it has an almost impossible task in defeating Southern, but that doesn’t mean they won’t come out ready to play.
“At this point, our guys are saying, we’ve got four games left. Let’s just do the best we can and enjoy playing football,” he says. “It always hurts to lose a ball game, but we still get our excitement when we score a touchdown. Our goal would be to score. Scoring a touchdown vs. the second-ranked team in the state would be a huge accomplishment for us.”
Bonds says that, finally, the need to keep his team’s momentum going (and prepare for games against 2A powers Patrician and Pickens to conclude the season) means everything else is unimportant.
“We play every game the same way. We’re trying to get better. We still have to play those two good 2A’s at the end of the season. I wish those games were out of the way…We’re in a situation where we’ve got our cup full,” he says. “It’s magical, to keep something like this going. It could be in your belief, or in the way you carry yourself, or just being the better team, but some teams just get that magic. We’re kind of in that zone right now and I don’t want to lose it.”