Williams wary of ALJ’s potential
LINDEN — One of the most storied rivalries in Marengo County, the annual clash between Linden and A.L. Johnson has been anything but close in recent years.
Since Andro Williams’ arrival in 2007, the Patriots have outscored A.L. Johnson 185-14 in three meetings. But, despite the lopsided outcome of the contests, Williams is quick to point out the respect he maintains for the A.L. Johnson players.
“I know they’ve got some athletes,” he said of the Eagles, who feature 16 eighth graders and freshman on their 28-man roster. “We can’t kid ourselves. They’ve got some great athletes. They’ve got some young kids, but they’re talented.”
With the athleticism ALJ possesses, Williams knows his team must be ready for every play. That preparation begins with the way the Patriots approach the game, a contest Williams views as being equal with each of Linden’s other region games.
“Our kids know a lot of their kids. Their kids know our kids. That is a rivalry in itself,” Williams said. “But I see it as another region game. That’s the way we talk about it. The fans of old consider it a rivalry, so they will come out in support of it for that reason. But for us, it is really the next region game.”
The next region game for Linden will be approached much like the last one, a contest that ended with the Patriots hanging 63 points on Fruitdale in their second consecutive shutout of the season.
“We’re going to work on being us and work on all the things we need to be better,” Williams said. “We want to continue to try to find more kids that can help us on that field and build our depth.”
The Patriots have routed their first two opponents of the season, outpacing Central-Tuscaloosa and Fruitdale 115-0. While the final results are similar to what the team managed in 2009, the means to those ends looks considerably different.
In 2009, Kendarius Fritts amassed 2,380 yards and 33 touchdowns while rushing his way to Class 1A Back of the Year honors. Through the first two games of the season, he has toted the ball just 13 times for 158 yards and only one touchdown.
“It’s just the way the game rolled,” Williams said of Fritts’ diminished role in the offense thus far, a lot that saw him touch the ball one time for 40 yards and a score last week against Fruitdale. “We’re trying to find out about some other kids and get them some reps. I’m sure his carries will go up in time. He’s playing defense this year too, whereas he didn’t really play any (defense) last year.”
While Fritts has played a smaller part in the offense in the season’s early going, junior Terris Lewis has seen an increased role, hauling in two passes for 70 yards and a pair of touchdowns last Friday night.
“We want to try to get Terris more involved,” Williams said. “But it is really just the way the game is going. He has three catches for touchdowns already this year and I don’t think he had any last year.”
A.L. Johnson heads into the contest fresh off a 34-0 region loss to Marengo High. Friday’s trip to Linden marks the second region contest of the season for an Eagle team that will also face Sweet Water and McIntosh on the road.