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From the Sidelines: Friday night big for county football

There is no overstating the importance of this week for Marengo County high school football. Yes. Stacy Luker will treat the game with Bastrop (La.) just like any other game. And he should But the fact is that the game will bring greater exposure to a program that has dominated its classification like few others in recent memories.

The Bulldog players will measure themselves against one of the most successful programs in the country and be pushed to a level that no team in Alabama’s Class 1A can possibly match.

The contest also shows tremendous ingenuity and gumption on the part of Luker, who made the most of a difficult situation by putting Bastrop into the schedule slot created by Frisco City’s closing.

This gives the Bulldogs an out-of-region schedule that includes Thomasville, currently the No. 1 team in Class 4A, Leroy, the defending state champion in Class 2A and Bastrop, a talent factory out of Louisiana. If that extra-region schedule is not enough to silence Sweet Water’s metropolitan detractors, nothing ever will be.

While the fact is that Luker and his boys would like to win every single game and will approach each contest with similar intensity, Sweet Water steps onto the field in a no-lose situation Friday night. Barring injury, the Bulldogs will emerge from that contest a better football team, win or lose.

Just up the road, the two biggest threats to the Bulldogs’ crown will clash in Linden. The Patriots will host Maplesville in what appears to be a de facto Class 1A, Area 3 championship game.

Maplesville and Linden enter the game at 5-0 and sit at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively in the current ASWA poll. With both squads having faced their toughest region opponents already, it is highly likely that Friday’s contest will account for the only regular season loss between them while also serving as a forerunner to an eventual postseason rematch down the line.

Maplesville comes to town with a spread attack anchored by quarterback Matt Hamner, who enters the game with an impressive passing line. The Red Devil junior has gone 38-for-48 through the air for 762 yards over five games.

The teams have seen similar success on both sides of the ball as Maplesville has routed its opponents by a combined score of 224-14. Conversely, the Patriots have outpaced foes 242-13 on the season, all while not having allowed a single point since their week one opener with Class 3A Cottage Hill.

The key for the Pats’ success thus far has been obvious; ball control and defense. The Linden ground game has shredded foes, keeping its defense on the sidelines. That coupled with Linden’s stinginess — one turnover through five games — has kept its defense from working on a short field and prevented giveaway scores.

If Linden can duplicate that success against Maplesville, it could well be on the way to its second consecutive area title and be one step closer to its season goal of making a run deep into the state playoff in hopes of earning the right to play for a title in Tuscaloosa.