Marengo High to face 9-1 Florala Wildcats

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 4, 2005

The Marengo Panthers are 4-6, enter the playoffs on a three-game losing streak, and are going up against a 9-1 Florala team ranked eighth in the state.

So why is Marengo coach Travis Carswell still optimistic about his team’s chances? Because he knows his team hasn’t played their best football yet.

“It’s a matter of putting together our A game. We’ve had a good first half or a good second half, but we haven’t played a complete game,” he says. “We have a great chance. There’s no pressure. We’re going to go out, have fun, and play ball.”

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Although Carswell and his team have been working hard to pull off what would be a major upset Friday, he also knows that just making the playoffs (after the Panthers went 2-8 the season before) is an accomplishment in itself.

“It’s huge step. As a first-year coach, to double the previous year’s output is a plus,” Carswell says. “We played some tough games, lost some games with fumbles and things like that, and the record doesn’t really reflect that. We’re very happy and hoping we can make a stand in the playoffs.”

Whether they can make that stand or not will depend largely on how well the Panther D, led by senior linebacker standout Trent Lewis and 275-pound senior lineman Jherrick Witherspoon, can shut down the potent Wildcat rushing attack.

“We know what they’re going to do. They have their bread-and-butter,” Carswell says. “They run the wing-T and we’ve been working on that every day.”

Knowing after Week 8’s games that the Panthers would be matched up with Florala, Carswell has had plenty of opportunity to study the Wildcats. Their attack is paced by running backs Jerome Tomberlin, Vance Gettis, and Corderus Smiley, each of which has the ability to rack up big yardage. Quarterback Robby Evans is at the Florala helm.

Between the wing offense and the running back rotation, there’s some similarities between Florala and a certain area team that also bulldozes their opponents and happened to defeat Marengo 47-0 in Week 5. But Carswell says the Wildcats don’t present quite the same challenge as the Bulldogs.

“This team is not on the same level as Sweet Water,” he says. “Not to say anything bad about Florala. They have good backs, and they execute well … [but] they’re not Sweet Water.”

On defense, Carswell admits that Florala will have more size than the Panthers, which makes it even more important that Marengo take advantage of their team’s speed.

“They have good size up front,” he says. “We want to spread them out and create some running lanes. That’s our biggest concern, if we can run the ball well … There’s some things we think we can exploit. It’s a matter of us executing and getting the ball off in time.”

Those running lanes would be open for players like quarterback Keldred Bouler, subbing for the injured Jarvis McCall, back/receiver Ronnie Hildreth, and do-everything big-play senior Jeremy Dixon.

Several of the Marengo players also run on the Panthers’ successful track team, and if Marengo can turn the game into anything like the proverbial “track meet,” the Panthers’ resurgence would take its biggest step yet.

“There’s some buzz now. We worked really hard in the off-season and this is the reward… we’ve got a chance to showcase it in the playoffs,” Carswell says. “We feel it’s just a matter of us executing and utilizing our team speed. With the younger guys stepping up, we have a real good chance. We know what we can do.”