Third round ready

Published 10:48 pm Tuesday, November 18, 2008

LINDEN — Linden head coach Andro Williams was unfazed by the unusually cold temperatures in which his Patriots practiced Tuesday.

“This is football weather,” he playfully exclaimed to his team as it worked through its game plan for Friday night’s showdown in Loachapoka.

“I think to this point, they’ll be the best defense we’ve seen,” Williams said of the daunting task his offensive group will face on the road in round three of the AHSAA, Class 3A state playoffs Friday night. “They’ll be the most athletic defense we’ve seen without a doubt.”

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Statistically speaking, Williams assessment seems an accurate one. The Indians (9-2) have allowed a paltry 9.36 points per game thus far this season.

Loachapoka punched its third round ticket with a 15-7 win over region rival Talladega County Central. Conversely, the Patriots survived a 33-32 battle with region foe Billingsley by stuffing a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute of the game.

“Hopefully we won’t have a setback from that game,” Williams said. “A lot of times when you play a game like that, you come back that next week and start out a little slow.”

Despite the threat of potential lingering, negative effects from the thriller his team played in the second round, Williams believes the game will benefit Linden as it moves forward in the playoffs.

“I learned that our football team is a team that doesn’t want to lose,” Williams said. “I think our team learned something from that game.”

“I learned about our character,” Tate said. “It’s going to help us in every way possible.”

While the Patriots know they have harder roads to hoe ahead, they are at work this week trying to avoid the same cardiac moments they faced against Billingsley.

“Our outside containment, we’ve got to do a better job of that,” Tate said of the defense’s need to play better on the edges. “We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the football.”

Even though his team saw double-digit leads fade away on multiple occasions throughout the contest, Williams was unalarmed about his team’s play.

“Everything was fine,” Williams said. “But we didn’t tackle as well as a team down the stretch. We got out-manned in some spots. As a whole, we didn’t play bad.”

Still, Williams knows that his team must be able to finish this week in Loachapoka if it is to keep its quest for the perfect season alive.

“Loachapoka is a team that has found ways to win,” Williams said. “They know how to win the big ball game. They’re a dangerous football team.”

Possibly the greatest asset working in favor of the Patriots is the fact that they have thus far proven capable of maintaining their intensity in practice.

“I think they’ve bought into that concept,” Williams said of the team’s understanding that each game could be its last. “Our seniors know this is their last hurrah. They know that they can’t take anything for granted at this point.”

“It’s been easier (to focus each week) because Coach (Williams) is gong to remind us everyday to focus on the (game) in front of us,” Tate said.

The Patriots’ ability to move on to the fourth round likely will largely be contingent upon the ability of seniors Tate and Shantrell Braxton to make the most of their “last hurrah.”

Tate and Braxton have combined for 3,535 yards and 60 touchdowns on 341 carries out of the Linden backfield this season.