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Patriots ready for physical battle

LINDEN — The Patriots (4-0, 3-0) enter tonight’s game with the knowledge that they are deadlocked in what looks to be a three-team race for the 1A, Region 3 championship.

“It’s important because it’s the next game and that’s the mentality that we have,” Linden head coach Andro Williams said of the team’s mindset during practice this week. “We’re not going to fool our kids and tell them this is not a good football team.”

“Billingsley is coming in running the Wing-T,” senior Joe Johnson Jr. said. “They’ve got two good backs. We’ve just got to be physical.”

Linden, whose average margin of victory through the season’s first four games is 41.5 points, has spent the week preparing for what it believes could be its toughest test to date.

“We’re going to see a football team that’s hungry,” Williams said. “A team that’s big, physical and hungry for a win.”

Williams said he anticipates the Bears will challenge his offensive line in ways it has yet to experience.

“They’re big up front with speed on the edges,” Williams said of the team now coached by Kevin LeSueur. “We’re going to see a big and physical football team. They’re getting better each and every week.”

Billingsley has outscored its last three opponents 113-6 since dropping the season opener to region powerhouse Maplesville 40-20. Conversely, Linden’s closest call to date has been a 38-20 victory over 3A Cottage Hill in the Patriots’ first regular season game.

Following that contest, Linden posted consecutive 60-plus point performances against A.L. Johnson and Akron before finding itself trailing Holy Spirit 7-6 with a little over five minutes remaining in the second half of last week’s contest.

“It was a little bit of adjusting of our kids mainly,” Williams said of an outburst that saw the Patriots post 41 points in a five-minute span to head into halftime with a sizable lead. Linden ultimately took the game 54-13.

“We had some things we didn’t do well,” Williams said of his team’s first-half struggles. “We didn’t play well last week. We missed a lot of tackles and didn’t take good angles.”

Williams knows his team will need to avoid those mishaps tonight against a team more than capable of making the Patriots pay.

“We’ve got to start doing the little things,” Williams said.

“We love the action,” Johnson said of what he perceives to be a high-caliber opponent in Billingsley. “We need the competition. We’re trying to get better and better each week.”