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Patriots primed for showdown with Maplesville

LINDEN – After bowling over every team in their path for weeks, the Patriots finally met a challenge last week when they outlasted Billingsley for a 27-26 win. Even though his team didn’t prove dominant as it had in previous contests, Linden head coach Andro Williams was encouraged by the game.

“I actually was pretty pleased with our guys the other night,” Williams said. “That’s the kind of game we want. We needed something like that. That’s going to help us in the playoffs.”

“It’s going to help us to understand we’ve got to do the little things at the end of the game,” Williams said.

The second-year head coach was also encouraged about the timing of the game. He believes the scheduling will ultimately play into Linden’s favor as the team will be required to face what he considers top-flight teams in consecutive weeks.

“(Billingsley) might be one of the top football teams in our region before the year is over,” Williams said. “That’s a good football team.”

Billingsley suffered only its second loss of the season Friday night. Its first came in week one to the team Linden will face this week, Maplesville.

“We’ve got to eliminate the big plays,” Williams said of his defense’s need to make adjustments. “We’ve got some small errors that we made.”

Williams also said his offense will have to prove more capable of protecting the ball.

“There was a point in the ball game we were up 14-7 and we were driving,” he said. “They didn’t have an answer for what we were doing and we fumbled.” Williams expressed his belief that Linden would have been capable of putting the game away early had it not been for the turnover.

Despite the miscues, Williams is confident his team showed improvement during the game.

“We’re getting better,” he said.

Another source of encouragement for the Patriot coaching staff has reportedly been the steadily improving play of the skill position players around the team’s centerpiece tailback tandem of Maurice Tate and Shantrell Braxton.

“Gerald Bruno played a great game,” Williams said of the junior wingback. He was also complimentary of junior receiver Larente Taylor and senior quarterback Ajalon Bruno. However, Williams was most excited about the defensive effort exhibited by those players.

“Both of those guys played a great game defensively,” he said of Taylor and Ajalon Bruno. “(Ajalon) played his best game of the year defensively.”

Still, even though he team has made great strides as a defensive unit this season, Williams knows his squad’s best chance at success this weekend will come from its ability to control the ball and keep the Maplesville offense on the sidelines.

“We want to put together some 10-12 play drives offensively,” Williams said. “That’s the kind of week we want to have. That’s what we’ve been talking about as a football team.”

Williams was also very candid about the fact that the Patriots’ best shot at controlling the tempo of the game will be getting the ball into the hands of Tate and Braxton.

“We want to make sure we establish our running game more and more,” Williams said. “They’re going to have to respect what we try to do offensively.”

The Patriot head coach said that he fully expects Maplesville to do its best to counter every Linden move.

“(Maplesville head coach Brent Hubbard) is a genius. I’ve been fortunate enough to be up against him as a defensive coordinator and as a head coach,” Williams said. “It’s basically going to be a big chess game Friday.”