Sumter one win away from layoff berth

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 21, 2005

YORK–Sumter Academy is only 3-5 on the 2005 season. But thanks to those three big in-region wins, the Eagles are only one victory away from doing something they haven’t done since 2001: taking part in AISA postseason play.

“That was our goal at the start of the season, to move on to the playoffs. They know that,” says Eagle head coach Bob Taylor. “This would be the first time in three or four years for us to make the playoffs, so it’s a very big game for us.”

Standing in the Eagles’ way is East Memorial Christian Academy, out of Prattville. Many observers would expect Sumter to have an easy time of it, as the Wildcats are only 1-7 on the season and lost last week to Autauga Academy 60-20. The second-year program has only one win in its existence, on Oct. 9 of this season over West Alabama Preparatory.

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But that doesn’t mean Taylor is taking his opponent lightly

“You don’t ever know,” he says. “Like all teams, they’ve got four or five plays they like to run and we have to be prepared to stop them. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it.”

Those four or five plays are all rushing plays as the Wildcats’ preferred mode of attack is to pound the middle of the line with their collection of running backs. That will put the onus on Sumter’s defensive linemen, like senior Brandon Briggs and Hunter Hanson, who Taylor admits struggled against the mammoth offensive line of Shelby Academy in last week’s 49-0 loss.

“We’ll just get in our 5-3 and go back to work,” he says. “Last week we were physically outmanned. After that, we feel pretty good our match-up this week.”

Another big factor in the Shelby loss was the absence of starting running back Matt Boler and versatile part-time quarterback Tanner Armstrong. With those two out of the lineup, usual quarterback Hunter Spidle moved to tailback and Briggs moved from lining up alongside the center to lining up behind him.

Not surprisingly, the Eagles struggled to move the ball on Shelby, but are now back to their full compliment of offensive weapons for the EMCA game as Spidle and Boler both return to the starting lineup. All of the usual Eagle starters will be healthy for the game.

“We should be almost full strength,” Taylor says. “Last week was kind of rough.”

Despite the return of the Eagles’ biggest playmakers and the struggles of the Wildcats, Taylor says overconfidence is not a factor after the Shelby loss, the third straight lopsided result for Sumter after falling to Lakeside and Pickens.

“It’s been a rough three games. We played three good teams,” Taylor says. “When you’re 3-5 you can’t overlook anybody. We just have to line up and go play.”

With a playoff berth ripe for the taking, it’s not surprising that the Eagles are ready to take the field as soon as they can get to Prattville.

“They’re real excited,” says Taylor. “They’re anxious to go play.”