Round two rematch
Linden had a 21-20 lead late in the third quarter, with visiting Billingsley driving deep into Patriot territory. On fourth down and inches to go for a first down at the LHS 14-yard line, BHS running back Jamar Hopson took the ball and ran into a swarm of Linden players. Linden took possession, drove the length of the field, and scored on a 15-yard run by Maurice Tate.
Linden, who anticipates another four-quarter battle with the Bears Friday night, went on to win that game 27-26. Turnovers and blown assignments plagued the Patriots during their Sept. 26 clash with their now 9-2 region foe.
“We definitely had mistakes all over the place offensively, defensively and on special teams,” Linden head coach Andro Williams said. Those special teams miscues showed up early the first time the teams clashed as Billingsley running back Jamar Hopson took the ball 82 yards to paydirt on the opening kickoff.
While school was not in session in Linden Monday and Tuesday, the Patriots utilized much of their free time to prepare for round two with an aggressive, athletic Billingsley team.
“We can’t beat them,” Williams said of his team’s need to avoid mistakes. “If we make the same mistakes that we did before, we will not only get beat, we will get embarrassed.”
The Patriots have spent much of the early portion of the week honing their coverages and assignments.
“We want to just eliminate the big plays,” Tate, who leads the team with 1,827 yards rushing and 38 touchdowns, said. “That’s what we’ve been preaching all week.”
Tate also emphasized Linden’s need to protect possession.
“That is very, very important to take care of the football,” Tate said.
Much of the Patriots’ success in the game will be determined by what they are able to do in the trenches.
“(We have to) go out and establish the line of scrimmage, no turnovers and no silly penalties,” senior Kendall Raby said.
“They play dang good defense,” Williams said of the Bears. “This is a dangerous football team. They’re tough to deal with. They’re actually a third or fourth round (caliber) playoff team.”
Williams, whose team prevailed over Winterboro 66-0 last week in the first round of the AHSAA, 1A playoffs, said his team has been helped greatly a run of its regular season games that started with Billingsley.
“They knew they had to raise the bar and raise their level of play during that stretch,” Williams said of his team’s approach to a three-game stretch that included Billingsley, Maplesville and Holy Spirit. “We knew that streak was going to help us down the road in the playoffs as well as playing a 3A team like Aliceville. The teams that we’ve played have given us confidence because of the matchup problems we’ve faced over the course of the year. Those teams are gong to help us with the matchup problems we’re going to see down the line in the playoffs.”
The Patriots host Billingsley Friday night. The winner of that clash will go on the road in round three to visit the winner of the Loachapoka and Talladega County Central game.