After ending the regular season with a victory last week, the Auburn High Tigers will begin the Class 7A playoffs tonight. For the second straight season, they’ll do so without their starting quarterback.
Auburn (7-3, 4-2) takes on Murphy (6-4, 5-3) in Duck Samford Stadium in the first round of the postseason. The game will be the second straight start for Tigers quarterback Patrick McGlon, who has taken the place of junior Matthew Caldwell.
Auburn head coach Adam Winegarden confirmed Caldwell is out for the year after sustaining an injury in the Tigers’ loss to Central-Phenix City on Oct. 25. McGlon stepped in for the rest of the game against the Red Devils then got the start last Thursday against Park Crossing in a non-region showdown the Tigers won 44-28.
McGlon started early in the season for Auburn then split time with Caldwell before Caldwell ultimately won the job. The plus side for the Tigers is McGlon has been in this situation before; as a freshman last fall, he stepped in for senior Griffin Speaks and started Auburn’s two playoff games.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in (Patrick) because obviously we started him at the beginning of the year, and he rotated with Matthew in the middle of the season,” Winegarden said. “We feel very comfortable with him back there at quarterback.”
McGlon handled his latest test for the Tigers, throwing two deep touchdowns in the Tigers’ victory against Park Crossing.
The game featured some big moments for Auburn on both sides of the ball, as the Tigers’ defense had two fumble-return touchdowns in the early goings that set the stage. For Winegarden, the team’s seventh victory was all about making enough plays to win.
“I thought it was a highly-competitive game by both sides. I thought Park Crossing played really well in the game,” Winegarden said. “It was really an odd first half. We had two defensive touchdowns, yet we gave up some plays on defense. It was 14-14, and we played very little offense.
“Once the game kind of settled into a normal flow, I thought we played better. We were able to kind of pull away with the win. I thought it was a good way to finish the season.”
With McGlon now entrenched as the starter, the Tigers turn their attention to Murphy.
After starting the season 3-3, the Panthers enter the postseason having won three of their last four games. Winegarden credited Murphy for being super athletic and having an offense that is capable of making big-time plays along with a defensive line that stands out.
Winegarden pointed to Murphy defensive end Jimari Butler — who has scholarship offers from the likes of Nebraska, Ole Miss and Tennessee — as well as running backs Breland Manley and Yehudah Craig, receivers Kharon Marion and Tanaka Scott and quarterback Alex Howell as Panthers who can make plays if the Tigers aren’t careful.
Winegarden stressed the importance of playing well in the kicking game against Murphy as well as winning the line of scrimmage on offense and on defense. Although the intensity of the playoffs is unlike anything the regular season can offer, Winegarden emphasized that what it takes to win now is no different than it was one week ago.
“We still believe we’re a team that’s developing and our best football is ahead of us. We’re really working hard to get better this week and play our best football on Friday,” Winegarden said. “At this point, it doesn’t matter if you win by one or 50. It’s about playing the next week. Our thing is to be one point better and then move on.”