Sweet Water heads to Super 6

Published 9:14 pm Tuesday, November 30, 2010

SWEET WATER — As the final week of the 2010 high school football season approaches, only 12 teams statewide find themselves still practicing. And for the fifth time in seven years, Sweet Water is among that group of teams.

“We’ve got six players that started for us two years ago,” Sweet Water head coach Stacy Luker said. The Bulldogs also have a handful of athletes who played on kick and punt coverage teams when the Bulldogs thrashed Speake in the 2008 Class 1A state championship. That should give the Bulldogs an edge in title game experience heading into Thursday’s clash with R.A. Hubbard.

“I think they’ll be able to handle the environment,” Luker said of his players ability to adjust to the big stage at Jordan-Hare Stadium. “We seem to be focused, seem to be handling things well.”

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Due to the Thursday kickoff, the Bulldogs shifted their practice schedule slightly this week. Luker indicated the changes have been well received by his players.

“We had to come in Sunday with the full team instead of with part of the team,” he said. “But practice times are shorter. You know everything by this point in the year. You’re really trying to polish, you’re not trying to put anything in.”

Luker said his players grasp the basic principle of shutting out the past and focusing on the present.

“They understand the importance of putting everything behind them that we’ve done the first 14 weeks,” he said.

In those first 14 weeks, the Bulldogs have compiled an 11-3 record that includes two wins over Linden and losses to Class 4A South representative Thomasville, Class 2A South representative Leroy and Class 3A power Handley.

“It helps us to have played our schedule that we’ve played so far,” Luker said. That 14-week run has enabled the Bulldogs to be better prepared for a Hubbard team that comes in at 13-1, having suffered its only loss to Class 4A semi-finalist North Jackson.

“They run the I and they run the spread,” Luker said of Hubbard’s preferred offensive attack. “Athletically, they remind me a lot of Linden.”

Defensively, Hubbard should prove challenging to the Sweet Water run game as they counter with an aggressive front seven.

“They’ve got a lot of big, athletic guys in the box,” Luker said. “That side is probably where they favor Linden more than anything.”

While Sweet Water’s five state title appearances in the last seven years would seem to give the Bulldogs the edge in experience, Luker respects the legacy Hubbard brings into the game.

“They’ve got a pedigree. They’ve got a history,” Luker said of an R.A. Hubbard program that was galvanized by the addition of athletes from the now defunct Hazelwood High School. “You combine them with Hazelwood and you’ve got 16 state championships and 22 state championship appearances between them.”

Both teams will attempt to strengthen their already impressive legacies Thursday at 3 p.m.