Southern one wine away from state championship game

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Southern Academy head coach Shaun Bonds has a good problem to have. Last week, his team flat ran over Chambers Academy, winning 60-0 and never allowing the visiting Rebels to threaten the end zone, much less the lead.

But when things go that well, what, exactly, do you preach on in practice?

“It’s hard to judge. We played a pretty good game,” Bonds admits. “But every game is different. We have to come back and make sure we know our assignments. We have to know what formations they run and what they like to run out of them. It’s the same preparation we’d do for any game we’d play.”

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The “they” for the Cougars this week is Lowndes Acad., the last team standing between the Cougars and a trip to Troy for Southern’s second straight AISA Class A state championship game. The Cougars and Rebels will face off at 7:30 Friday night in Greensboro.

Bonds says he has great respect for the consistent quality of Lowndes’s football program and says his team will have to be a the top of their game Friday to come out with a win.

“They’re an excellent football team. They like to throw the ball, to use the short pass. They’ve got good backs, a great QB, good receivers,” he says. “Lowndes gives us a lot of different looks. They like to change schemes … They’ll line up in 15 or 16 different formations.”

The Rebels are coming off of a 53-12 shellacking of Cornerstone in which, it seems, all those formations worked. Quarterback Drew Harrell went 12-15 with a pair of touchdown passes, running backs Eric St. Cin and Rob Smith combined for 153 yards and four touchdowns 15 carries, and receiver T.J. Mills caught 5 passes for 57 yards and a score.

Lowndes’s emphasis on the passing game means the Cougars will need big games from their back seven, including linebackers Nathan Bonds and Blake Langham, and secondary players Jason Segura, Wallace Drury, and Jason Lavender.

But the Rebels will likely need every bit of firepower they have to keep up with a Southern offense that is on a tear, having scored 35 against AA title favorites Patrician, 45 against AA playoff teams Pickens, and 60 against Chambers in successive weeks.

“We expect to see some six-man fronts, almost a goal-line defense, daring us to throw. But I’m a little hardheaded,” bonds says. “We’ve got to be able to run the football.”

It’s no surprise that Bonds feels that way given the rampant success the Cougars have had doing just that, even against stacked fronts. Tailback and All-State cinch Wallace Drury racked up 156 more yards and three touchdowns against Chambers on only 12 carries. Bonds says that the entire team has a hand in–and is drawing strength from–Drury’s remarkable season, in which he may be able to surpass 3,000 rushing yards.

“He’s feeding off of them and they’re feeding off of him,” Bonds says. “It’s great to have a have a player like Wallace who can take over a game. We have a lot of great players but he’s a big part of our success because he’s so dangerous.”

That explosiveness makes it risky for teams to overload the line of scrimmage to stop him, Bonds says.

“They can’t put more than one guy in a gap. Wallace is so quick that once he’s in the clear, he’s gone. I don’t mind people crowding the box. All we have to do is create a seam,” Bonds says.

Despite the fact that playing in a state semifinal game would be plenty motivation enough, Bonds says his players will also draw some fire from a memory of playing a junior high game against Lowndes a few years ago. Lowndes “just made us look bad” on that night, Bonds says, and it’s one more reason his players aren’t booking their place in Troy just yet.

“They know what’s out there. But we can’t look past this one,” he says. “You have to prepare for this game the very best you can.”