• 72°

Sunshine hosts Linden in season-defining game

The most anticipated week of the season is finally here for head coach Jonathan Jenkins’ Sunshine Tiger team. The players will spend this week attempting to block out the potential distractions that accompany the visiting film crew that has come as part of the Toyota Line of Scrimmage promotion while still trying to prepare for what could be its toughest opponent of the season to date.

“Everybody’s excited,” senior Nathaniel Zinnerman said of the mood surrounding the team this week. “But we’re not just focused on the TV. We want to make an upset of Linden.”

“It’s big,” senior Adrian Davis said. “We’ve been waiting on this week pretty much all year. Now it’s finally here.”

Even though the visiting film crew and all the extra attention the team will be receiving this week offer plenty of opportunity for a lackluster week of preparation, Jenkins believes the extra activity has already served his team well.

“I think in a lot of ways, that has focused them,” he said. Jenkins said he and his team were honored when they learned of their selection by the creative team behind the promotion. However, since that time, he used the campaign’s criteria as a measuring stick for his team.

“The question is, ‘Do we have 26 gutsy players,’” Jenkins said.

His team, which fell to 1-5 after a 32-8 loss to Autaugaville last week, has taken its share of lumps this season.

“It’s been a disappointing season,” Davis said. “But we know we’ve got to come out and play because we know they’re going to come out and play 48 minutes. That’s just Linden.”

Even though his team is unlikely to achieve its season goal of making the playoffs, senior quarterback Jermaine Hood season considers Friday’s contest with the regions top-ranked Patriots the highlight of Sunshine’s season.

“To be honest, it would be a big, big win for us,” Hood said. “We’ve got to look over the fact that they are undefeated and they the two best backs around. We’ve still got to go out and play hard.”

Sunshine’s defense will face a stiff challenge in its efforts to slow the backfield tandem of Maurice Tate and Shantrell Braxton, who have combined to rush for 1,875 yards and 27 touchdowns through the first six games of the season.

“They’re on a roll. There’s no doubt they’re on a roll,” Jenkins said. “Braxton and Tate are undoubtedly the best running back combo in at least the south end of the state, if not the whole state. They’re the best two-back tandem in the history of Linden.”

Jenkins added that the Patriots are also solid along the offensive front.

“(Linden head coach Andro Williams) has rebuilt that offensive line and they’re clicking.”

“Weaknesses,” Jenkins said. “I’m going to tell you the truth, I’m having a hard time finding any.”

Still, despite the seemingly daunting task his team faces Friday, Jenkins is confident in Sunshine’s ability.

“We have not played a 48-minute game yet,” Jenkins said. “If we can do that, we’re going to be proud of the outcome. That doesn’t mean we’re going to win the ball game.”

“That would be so big for us to win this game,” Davis said. “I think that would be the upset of the week in the whole state.”

“It would mean that we would be the team we always knew we were,” a confident Zinnerman said of the potential of the Tigers handing Linden its first loss.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Newbern.