LINDEN — While many of their classmates were gathered with friends and family or sleeping in, the Patriots were on the field Thursday morning for their final day of preparation before their semi-final showdown with Sweet Water.
Linden, who prevailed over Loachapoka 24-6 in round three, has spent the week working toward the implementation of its game plan for what may well be the most anticipated game of the season for Marengo County football fans.
“It’s because of the fact that Linden ain’t ever been,” head coach Andro Williams said of the buzz that has led up to the game, which pits his Patriots against a Bulldog program that has won three of the last four state championships.
“That’s a big part because a lot of these kids don’t really have the experience to know how to handle a big game setting,” Williams said of his team’s inexperience. “There is going to be some adversity somewhere in that game,” Williams, who served as Sweet Water’s defensive coordinator for the beginning of its latest dynasty before moving to Linden in 2007, said.
His familiarity with the program affords him great insight into into what to expect during tonight’s contest with the top-ranked Bulldogs.
“They’re going to feed off what we do,” Williams said of the opportunistic Bulldog squad. “We’ve got to be sound and solid.”
Williams said that unique ability was on display last week when the Bulldogs ripped No. 2 Brantley 47-7.
“They got stronger and stronger as the game went on,” Williams said. “This will be the most experienced team by far. They’re not going to be the biggest team, but they’re going to be one of the fastest teams we’ve been on the field with. They’re going to be a team that is going to be very familiar with the big game setting.”
However, for some Linden players, Sweet Water’s prowess has enhanced the experience.
“That makes it a whole lot more fun because they’ve been state champs three of the last four years,” senior Maurice Tate said
Williams knows his team will need to keep its mistakes to a minimum in order to have a chance at advancing to the state title game in Birmingham.
“It’s very, very important,” Tate said of the need for Linden to play a disciplined game.
“We’ve just got to go out and do what we do, do the same things we’ve been doing and lay it all on the line. We’ve just got to go out and play the way we’re capable of playing.”
While both teams are known for their rushing attacks and strong defenses, the kicking game could well play a large role in determining the winner of tonight’s contest.
“That’s going to play a role,” Williams said. “You don’t want to give (the Bulldogs) a short field and you don’t want to put it in (Sweet Water return man Johnny) Lockett’s hands.
Williams believes his team has yet to play a complete game and knows it will need to do so in order to be in position to prevail tonight.
“We’ve got to play our best football game, the best we’ve played all year in order to win. We just need a complete ball game.”
While the weeks leading up to the game have generated tremendous amounts of chatter, Williams and his squad have attempted to shut out all of the outside noise.
“We’re focused on one goal and that’s to be playing next week in Birmingham,” Tate said.