Linden, Sweet Water clash day after Thanksgiving
For the third time in the last four years, Linden and Sweet Water have an all-important date the day after Thanksgiving.
In 2008 and 2010, the Bulldogs defeated Linden in the Class 1A state semi-finals on their way to winning the title. This year, Sweet Water hopes to do the same while Linden looks to change its fortunes.
“The only thing we’ve got going is that we are playing in the semi-final game to see who goes to Tuscaloosa,” Linden head coach Andro Williams said of the contest, dismissing any talk of rivalries and extracurriculars surrounding the contest.
Still, the teams enter as familiar foes, having competed against one another as Region 1 foes for the last two seasons. Friday’s showdown will be the fourth of imeeting between the two teams in the last 14 months.
“It doesn’t really affect anything at the end of the day. We know what we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with the defending state champions,” Williams said of the familiarity his team has with Sweet Water. “They are the state champions until somebody knocks them off. We know what kind of monster they are dealing with. We know who they are.”
For the first time in Williams’ five-season tenure with the Patriots, Linden enters the playoff contest against its in-county rival with a head-to-head win under its belt after having defeated Sweet Water 25-14 back on Sept. 16.
“He has turned the tables this year,” Sweet Water head coach Stacy Luker said. “Apparently we didn’t know them as well as I thought we did. He’s got us spending time on some stuff we didn’t spend time on the first time we played.”
Luker said that adjustments and tackling were significant problems for the Bulldogs in the previous meetings between the teams.
“We’ve got to line up better defensively and we’ve got to tackle,” Luker noted. “Offensively, we’ve got to be a little more consistent on offense. Although we had some good drives last time, we didn’t finish drives. Avoid the negative plays.”
Williams was complimentary of the way Sweet Water is coached and the way it executs. He also pointed out that the Bulldogs are always dangerous because of their expectations.
“This football team we are playing this week, their expectation this time of year is that they win. It doesn’t matter who they are playing, the expectation is that they win. Those kids, that is their expectation,” Williams said. “We have to do what we do. For us to get into this position during the semi-final game, one game away from the championship, and get nervous, we’re not going to dwell on that. I think the kids know the expectations of what we are doing.”
Luker anticipates a Linden team this go-round that is improved over its predecessors.
“I don’t know if they are any hungrier than what they’ve been the last three or four years. Hungry teams are dangerous teams. But I think they may be more of a confident team than anything else,” Luker said. “They are still doing what they need to do to win football games. They are the kind of team that they can explode and lay up a lot of points or they can play great defense like they did against Brantley and Maplesville and then keep the ball on the ground and keep it that way.”