Rehobeth head coach: “We’ll play loose”

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 11, 2005

Rehobeth will come to Demopolis for Friday’s second-round playoff game toting a 9-1 record, a no. 9 ranking in the most recent ASWA 4A poll, and momentum from the Rebels’ first playoff victory since 1997.

But Rehobeth head coach George Kennedy admits that to leave Demopolis with one more thing–a victory–will require his team to play the very best game they can.

“It’s a tough situation,” he says. “Demopolis knows how to win. In that atmosphere, it’s going to be hard just to compete. We have a tough task tomorrow.”

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Kennedy does fell, however, that there are some factors working in the Rebels’ favor. One is that his team will be able to play with much less pressure than they dealt with in last week’s game, when the Rebels came out flat against Jackson and had to make a last-minute stop of an Aggie two-point conversion to win 21-20.

“Last week, I think we were too fired up to play. In the first half we were playing a little too emotional,” Kennedy says. “We’ll play a lot looser this week. Hey, we’re supposed to lose this game. The guys are going to go in and play and let the chips fall where they fall.”

One element that will help the Rebels’ nothing-to-lose attitude is one that most coaches would view as a hindrance: playing away from home. Kennedy says playing in Rehobeth likely contributed to his team’s tightness out of the gate against Jackson.

“We’re an older team, and we play better on the road than we do at home,” he says. “Our guys seem to be a little more focused on the road. The problem [against Demopolis] is the five-hour drive. There’s advantages and disadvantages.”

Kennedy admits that there are plenty of other disadvantages to playing Demopolis, too, starting with a Tiger defense that will provide Rehobeth’s ground-based offense with a stiff challenge. Demopolis has allowed opposing teams to rush for only 1.4 yards a carry on the season.

“Defensively, they pose problems with both their speed and their scheme,” Kennedy says. “They do a lot of movement. We just have to block guys and stay with our blocks. We have to play to the whistle.”

If Rehobeth can hold their blocks, however, running backs DeWitt Hogan and Cord Grider have each had big seasons and may be able to take advantage. Kennedy says the Rebels’ close-to-the-vest, run-first game plan isn’t going to change, even for Demopolis. The strategy means that holding on to the ball is even more important for Rehobeth than it might be for other, more explosive teams.

“We’re just an old-fashioned high school football team. We didn’t beat anybody bad all year,” Kennedy says. “We can’t turn the ball over. We just can’t give them a short field at any time.”

If Rehobeth is to come away with the win, the Rebels will also need to try to contain the Tigers’ tremendous team speed, Kennedy says.

“The key is to not give up the big play. They’re a big play team,” he says. “Without a doubt, they’ll be the fastest team we’ll play this year. Trying to tackle them’s like trying to catch the wind.”

That’s not to say, however, that the experience-laden Rebels will be intimidated or awestruck by Demopolis, even as the Tigers look to make Rehobeth their 27th straight victim.

“We’ve got a lot of seniors and they take a business-like approach,” Kennedy says. “They don’t get caught up in a lot of the hoopla … Our guys just go out and play. That’s what they’ve done all year.”