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Longhorns control destiny with win over Bessemer

LINDEN — The Longhorns are in a difficult position. The only way they can control their playoff destiny is to beat perennial power Bessemer Academy. Robby James understands that beating Bessemer at its stadium is no small task.

“They look loaded to me,” James said. “They’ve lost a couple games. They’ve got a really good football team. They’re real aggressive on defense. They remind me a lot of Prattville. They scored 54 on Tuscaloosa.”

Not only is Bessemer’s offense prolific and its defense aggressive, but the team is known to show up when it needs to do so.

“It’s region play, so they’re going to be up for this,” James said.

For the Longhorns, a win is not absolutely necessary, but would certainly simplify things in Class AAA, Region 2. Currently, Morgan and Bessemer sit tied when one region loss each. They are followed by Marengo and Prattville who are each at 3-2 in region play. Morgan holds the tiebreaker over Bessemer by virtue of a head-to-head win while Marengo holds the advantage over Prattville for the same reason. The playoff picture becomes murky because of Tuscaloosa Academy’s win over Marengo last week.

The Knights have finished their region schedule and need help to climb from fifth in the standings and into one of the four playoff spots available in Region 2.

As is, Marengo clinches a playoff spot and maintains a shot as hosting in the first round with a win over Bessemer.

“If we win, it’s a possibility we could still host,” James said. “If not, it depends on a lot of scenarios.”

The first and most apparent of those scenarios rests on the Prattville and Morgan Academy matchup. If PCA defeats Morgan and Besemer bests Marengo, the Panthers would clinch a playoff spot. The Longhorn loss would knock them to 3-3 in the region and in a tie with Tuscaloosa, who holds the tiebreak advantage by virtue of its head-to-head win over Marengo last week. That set of circumstances would make next week’s rivalry game between Marengo and Southern the final contest of James’ first season as MA head coach.

However, A Morgan win over Prattville leaves the Longhorns with an opportunity to make a postseason appearance. Under that scenario, a Prattville loss and a Longhorn loss would force a three-way tie in the region. According to the AISA athletic handbook, the tie-break would be determined by point difference in head-to-head competition.

PCA defeated Tuscaloosa 49-0 and lost to Marengo 22-15. That leaves the Panthers with an 42-point positive difference. Tuscaloosa defeated Marengo 27-24 after taking the blowout to Prattville. That leaves TA with a minus-46 difference. All that adds up to Marengo having a plus-four difference. That math leaves Prattville as the No. 3 seed, Marengo as the No. 4 and Tuscaloosa getting ready for basketball season.

For the Longhorns, a win last week over Tuscaloosa would have sewn up a playoff berth outright.

“We were pretty tired when they made that last drive and scored,” James said of the Longhorns’ loss to TA. “They made a couple nice plays. But we still fought. We might’ve been too conservative in the fourth quarter when we had the lead there.”

However, no matter what happens with his team’s playoff lives, James is pleased with the season his players have put together and is confident they will put forth their best effort this week.

“They’ve all got a good attitude. They all know that we’ve got to practice hard and play hard to have a chance to get home field,” James said. “We’re just as tough and just as physical (as Bessemer) if we can last.”