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Underdogs hope to best Bulldogs

The Marengo Panthers (7-3) play the role of the underdog tonight when they visit 1A’s No. 2 team, Brantley (10-0) for the first round of the AHSAA playoffs.

“I don’t consider that as an upset at all,” senior lineman Larrence Pritchett said of the prospect of a Marengo High victory. “We’re a great team. They’re a great team. We’re going to play above our seed.”

The Panthers will encounter a Bulldog team that has proven every bit of its No. 2 ranking while winning by an average margin of 34.8 points per game. The only game decided by less than 15 points saw the Bulldogs outlast 3A Daleville 26-24.

“They’ve got size and speed. They’ve got great running backs and a nice-sized line,” MHS head coach Scottie Jones said of the Bulldogs. “They’re based out of the double wing with one split and one tight end.

“It’s going to be a familiar game for us and we’re hoping that by us being familiar with what they do, it will help us out defensively.”

On the other side of the ball, the Panthers will face a top-tier defense.

“They appear to be aggressive on defense,” Jones said of Brantley. “They’re playing a split four. They’re trying to take away the sweeps and play gap-control defense.”

“We’ve just got to be on our Q’s. That’s all I can say,” senior Maraz Tucker said.

The Panthers, who enter as the fourth seed out of Region 1, believe they will prove more formidable than their first-round status indicates.

“That’s the main priority,” senior Jeremy Bouler said of the team’s intention of making a statement against the Bulldogs. “It would mean a lot and put us one step closer to our goal; the fifth round. The closest this school ever came was the fourth round.”

That visit to the semi-finals came when Bouler’s older brother, B.J. was playing for Marengo. Bouler’s son, Desmond, is currently in pursuit of his third state championship ring with the Sweet Water Bulldogs.

“I’ve got to get one and try to catch up with my nephew,” Jeremy Bouler said. His other personal milestone is to surpass his brother’s school record for tackles in a single game, a mark that currently stands at 22. Jeremy’s best effort saw him drag down 20 ball carriers in a contest.

Much of the Panthers’ confidence stems from the knowledge that it is two possessions away from being a 9-1 team.

“We are proud of the 7-3 season, but we’re two touchdowns from being 9-1,” Jones said. Marengo fell to McIntosh 28-20 and J.U. Blacksher 7-0.