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Big weekend ahead for local teams

At this point in the high school football season, every game means something.

Playoff contenders are trying to improve their record in region play, and struggling teams are trying to right the ship and build some momentum.

Patriots host Eagles in top 10 matchup

In Marengo County this week, Linden and A.L. Johnson will meet in a battle of Class 1A top 10 teams. ALJ comes into the game ranked No. 6, while Linden enters ranked No. 8.

The Eagles are currently ahead of the Patriots in the region standings, but ALJ has yet to play Maplesville, who has shut out every 1A team they’ve faced, including Linden.

A Patriots win Friday night would all but guarantee them the two-seed in the playoffs, while an ALJ win would keep them in contention for a region title.

There’s even more riding on the game than region position, though. Not only is the game homecoming for Linden, it is also a homecoming for ALJ head coach Johnney Ford.

Ford played for and graduated from Linden and coached there for 15 years.

“We’re trying to treat it like it’s just another game and not get too over-excited,” Ford said. “Not only is it a big regional game, which makes the stakes even higher, but it also means a lot to me in my first year as a head coach.”

Ford added that it’s been close to a decade since the Eagles last defeated Linden.

“Our seniors are looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “We’re going to have to match their physicality and speed, and we have to be disciplined. If we can go in and not make mistakes and not let our emotions get the best of us, we’ll be in great shape.”

For Linden, head coach Andro Williams is treating it as another region game.

“With homecoming, there are a lot of different things going on, but we’re on the same schedule we are every other week,” he said. “We have to treat it like it’s our next region game. The proximity makes it a rivalry, but I’m going to leave that to the fans. We’re going to go out and play our game. We’ll prepare and be ready to play.”

Williams said he expects ALJ to load the box on defense and let their defensive secondary make the necessary plays.

“They’re a long and athletic team, so we need to do a great job of getting in position and making plays when we have the opportunity,” he said. “They’ve got three running backs that can hurt you and a quarterback that can hurt you with his feet or with his arm by throwing to their big, tall receivers.”

Demopolis prepares for Central-Tuscaloosa

The Demopolis Tigers will face a tough region test Friday night when they travel to Central-Tuscaloosa.

DHS head coach Tom Causey said last week’s slow start against Sumter Central was a good wake-up call for the younger players on his team.

“Playing in our region and classification, you better be prepared each week because everybody in our region and class is capable of winning,” he said. “I think that game taught a valuable lesson to our young guys. If you aren’t prepared, you can be beat. Hopefully that’s a lesson they learned.”

He added that Central has good football players on both sides of the football.

“Lester Cotton is one of the best players in the state at left tackle and their quarterback is fantastic,” he said. “He’s one of the best we’ve seen at keeping plays alive and keeping his eyes downfield. He doesn’t automatically tuck and run when he leaves the pocket, and his receivers do a good job of getting open when he scrambles. On defense, they attack and don’t wait on you to make a move. It’ll be really tough for our offense. They’re athletic and put pressure on the offense, and we’re going to have to make quick decisions.”

Sweet Water hosts Southern Choctaw

After giving up 25 unanswered points to Leroy and holding on to win 28-25 last week, the Sweet Water Bulldogs are looking to finish stronger this week against the Southern Choctaw Indians.

Bulldogs head coach Pat Thompson said the game helped his young team realize the importance of finishing games.

“Leroy is a good team, but we didn’t finish like we wanted to,” he said. “Our guys are working hard this week.’

Thompson added that the Indians are a downhill running football team, and the key to a win will be to slow that down.

“They’re a physical, downhill running team that can throw when they need to,” he said. “We need to slow them down on defense and stay on our blocks and run hard on offense.”

Panthers look to build on success

The Marengo Panthers snapped a four-game losing skid last week against McIntosh and will look to build on that this week against Sunshine.

Marengo head coach Bernard Myrthil said limiting mistakes will be the key to a road win Friday.

“We need to do what we do, which is control the clock, run the ball, protect the quarterback and limit mistakes,” he said. “If we do that, we’ll put ourselves in position to win. At this point, we’re more worried about doing what we’re supposed to do.”

Myrthil added that it’ll be important for his team to play sound defense.

“They gave A.L. Johnson a fight, so we know they’re a sound football team,” he said. “They’re coming off of a win like we are, so they’ll be just as motivated as us. We just need to go out and play our game.”

Longhorns to take on Russell Christian

Marengo Academy will head to Meridian on Friday to take on Russell Christian in an AISA AA, Region 2 matchup.

Russell Christian is winless so far this season, but MA head coach Robby James said they’re a scrappy team that plays hard.

“All you can do is play the game,” James said. “It’s a region game, so records don’t really matter. They’re going to be going for their first win, and we’re trying to win the region. Every region game we play this year, the team has a bye week before they play us, so they could come out with a completely different look than what we’ve seen on film.”

He said his team needs to limit mistakes and handle the ball well.

“As long as we do the little things right, we’re going to be alright,” he said. “They always play hard and are excited to be playing.”