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A.L. Johnson needs win over Sunshine to clinch No. 3 seed

THOMASTON — The Eagles are in a good position. But it would be tough to convince Mose Jones of that. The ALJ head coach is proud of his team’s accomplishments to this point, but is also well aware of the danger that lurks Friday night when the winless Sunshine Tigers come to call.

“It’s a rivalry game, so as far as them not having won a game, we can just throw that out a window,” Jones said. “They’re not a bad team. I’m still trying to figure out why they haven’t beaten anyone.”

The Tigers boast a thin but talented team and have seen near misses against a number of squads, including region foes John Essex and Akron. Jones believes the Tigers have everything they need to put it all together and steal a win.

“We will have to stop the Griffin kid,” he said of burning tailback Tevin Griffin before turning his attention to dual-threat signal-caller John May. “The quarterback looks real good. Basically, we have to stop that run game.”

In addition to Griffin and May, the Tigers also have track star Shaun McAlpine, whose speed carries with it the threat of being able to break a long run at any point.

One of the best defenses for the Eagles will be their ability to control the ball on offense and keep it out of the hands of Sunshine.

“I’m basically trying to stay with my running game,” Jones said of a strategy that has led his team to the cusp of clinching a playoff spot in Class 1A, Region 3. “We were able to move the ball a little bit against Maplesville and their bunch is pretty good. If we’re going to make any noise in the playoffs, it will have to come from the running game.”

Part of running the ball more effectively for the Eagles will hinge on their ability to get better play from the edges of their offensive line. The ALJ offensive tackles have been inconsistent throughout the season.

“Trying to get better at the tackle spots,” Jones said. “We’ve been working real hard with our offensive line, trying to get better and better. We’ll spend a lot of time this week on blocking and tackling.”

Mostly, the Eagles’ ability to beat Sunshine and clinch a playoff berth will come as the result of what they are able to do during the days leading into the game.

“They’re going to have to work real hard and just try to keep focused,” Jones said of the Eagle players. “We’ll spend quite a bit of time this week on fundamentals and just trying to keep everything going.”