The Auburn High Tigers came up short in their region championship game battle with Central-Phenix City last week. Fortunately for the Tigers, they don’t have to wait too long to get back in the game.
Auburn (6-3, 4-2) hits the road tonight to face Park Crossing (3-6, 3-2) in Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl. The game will be the Tigers’ last in the regular season before starting the Class 7A state playoffs as Region 2’s No. 2 seed.
Auburn hung tight with Central for a while last week, but ultimately the Red Devils’ running game helped the road squad break away in a 34-7 victory. The Tigers had their moments, but inconsistent offensive drives and failed fourth-down conversion attempts were too much to overcome.
“I think the big thing was they were able to establish their running game and finish drives. We didn't tackle well at times, but that's also because their running back (Joseph McKay) is a really good player. He broke a lot of tackles and made guys miss,” Auburn head coach Adam Winegarden said. “They did a great job executing and finishing drives. We had opportunities inside the 50 several times and failed to convert, so you've got to give their defense a lot of credit for holding us on fourth down multiple times and keeping us out of the end zone.”
The biggest concern out of last Friday’s loss involved junior quarterback Matthew Caldwell, who left the game in the second quarter after a big hit and did not return to play. Winegarden confirmed Caldwell will not play against Park Crossing, leaving sophomore quarterback Patrick McGlon to start.
McGlon may have been the second-string quarterback, but he steps in with plenty of experience. McGlon started two games as a freshman in 2018 and started about four games this year while the two quarterbacks split reps.
McGlon had four completions for 60 yards against Central in a game in which neither side was able to throw the ball effectively due to the rain.
“He has varsity experience, so we have a lot of confidence in Pat,” Winegarden said. “We know he's going to go in and do a really good job.”
McGlon will lead the way for Auburn against a Park Crossing squad that Winegarden believes is much better than its record. Winegarden pointed out how competitive the Thunderbirds have been — three of their five losses were by seven points or less — and the fact they are playoff bound in Class 6A.
Winegarden credited Park Crossing quarterbacks Trevor Robinson and Jayvius Langford for their ability to run and defensive lineman Khurtiss Perry as a key piece on a defensive line that boasts a lot of size.
Winegarden said Auburn will need to establish the run tonight, a mission that will be headed up by senior running back Aaron Diggs once again. Additionally, Winegarden called for the Tigers’ defense to stop the run and eliminate any explosive plays, for the offense to avoid turnovers and for the kicking game to play a clean game.
Tonight’s non-region game offers the Tigers a 10th regular-season test before the postseason begins. Winegarden said it’s not only another opportunity for his players to suit up and go to work, but it can also be a springboard into the most important part of the year.
“We want to be playing our best football in the playoffs, and the only way to get better is to play games. This gives us an opportunity to go compete and improve,” Winegarden said. “Anytime you have success, it gives you confidence and a boost as you go into the next contest. Hopefully, that's what we'll be able to achieve and carry into the playoffs.”