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Sweet Water preps for Thomasville

One of the most intense games of the season will take place in week one as traditional rivals Sweet Water and Thomasville meet in Friday’s season-opener.

“It is very intense. It is played at a high level,” Thomasville head coach Jack Hankins said of his Class 4A Tigers’ annual rivalry with Class 1A power Sweet Water. “Those guys get after it on the field.”

Thomasville is fresh off a 41-0 romp of Leroy in its Jamboree contest. But, despite his team’s success, Hankins is not sure there is a lot from that game that will help Thomasville prepare for Sweet Water.

“It is going to be an entirely different game Friday night,” Hankins said. “Sweet Water will not be in the spread. We have to be very good at defending the run.”

That run game helped Sweet Water get a 14-6 Jamboree win over reigning Class 5A champion Demopolis Friday night.

The Sweet Water offense also proved more effective than it did at times last season as sophomore quarterback Brett Davis, who scored the only touchdown by the Bulldog starters, showed drastically improved proficiency at the helm of the offense. While Sweet Water head coach Stacy Luker acknowledged Davis’ progress, he still hopes to see a quicker release from his signal-caller.

“He’s got to throw the ball. He’s got to get rid of it when he is in trouble,” Luker said. “But he is a tough kid and he’s going to be a leader for us.”

Given Thomasville’s defensive prowess and the need for Hankins’ team to key on the Sweet Water run game, Davis will likely get his opportunities to convert through the air Friday night. Even if he is successful in those chances, Luker knows victory will largely be contingent upon his defense’s ability to come up with stops, a process that will require better tackling than the Bulldogs displayed at times against Demopolis Friday night.

“We’ve got to tackle better. That’s for sure,” Luker said. “Of course, (Demopolis running back DaMarcus) James probably had a lot to do with that. We’ve got to stay on our feet and tackle.”

While the game is considered a legitimate rivalry by players and fans, neither coach is quick to credit the contest with having any more importance than any other game.

“Any game that you go in, playing well and winning gives you momentum,” Hankins said. “It especially does when you are playing a top-notch opponent like Sweet Water.”

“I don’t know if it really gauges where we are,” Luker said of the contest. “We’ve won that game and not won the state championship. We’ve lost it and won the state championship.”

While both coaches downplay the game’s significance in the terms of the bigger picture of any given season, both are quick to recognize just how big of a mountain their respective teams must climb Friday.

“They’re very good,” Hankins said. “A hard, well-coached, very physical football team. We will get their best.”

“They’re a monster,” Luker said. “We’ve got our hands full Friday night.”