Valley's playoff-clinching win over Tallassee on Friday gave the Rams plenty of reason to celebrate, but head coach Buster Daniel and his players were composed as usual. After all, they have bigger fish to fry this fall.
The Rams rode a great game from quarterback KD Hutchinson as well as their defense to a 34-12 victory to improve to 4-0 in region play this season. Getting back to the postseason for the second straight year is nice, but the team members remain focused on capturing a region title for the first time since 2011.
"We clinched the playoffs, but we didn't clinch our goal. Our goal is to be region champs. That's what we talked about all year," Daniel said. "I'm proud of my kids. It was a hard-fought game. That's a good football we just beat. They're real scrappy."
Last season was a return to form for the Valley program, as it snapped a five-year playoff drought before losing in the first round. Just getting the third seed again, however, is no longer enough, which is a testament to the work and raised expectations under Daniel's leadership.
The win over Tallassee was a welcomed sight for the Rams. Still, they aren't satisfied with what they've accomplished just yet.
"It's just so big because we're 4-0 in the region," said running back Josh Heath, who had 17 carries for 92 yards and two touchdowns against Tallassee. "We just want to get a region championship and then hopefully a state championship."
Not enough for Notasulga
Judging from the 28-0 final score, one might think Notasulga head coach Anthony Jones was all smiles after the Blue Devils' Thursday night victory over Loachapoka. That, however, was far from the case.
Although the Blue Devils won the game by a large margin, Jones was not satisfied with how his players performed in The Battle of Highway 14. Notasulga had 11 penalties in the victory, had at least one touchdown taken off the board due to a flag and had a field-goal attempt blocked against the Indians.
“A win is a win, but I’m not satisfied with how we got this win. I’m not pleased with how we played tonight,” Jones said. “We’ve got to go back to work because this is not acceptable for me or the coaching staff.”
The win for Notasulga likely sealed another trip to the playoffs. Having said that, the Blue Devils also likely didn't have a casual practice on Monday.
Missed call, missed opportunity
Loachapoka might have ended up on the wrong end of 28-0 ballgame, but there was a window where one officiating call could have completely flipped the game.
The Indians blocked a Notasulga field goal right before halftime, at which point Brandon Bedgood picked the ball up and ran 78 yards for an apparent touchdown that would have left the Blue Devils' halftime lead at 14-7 before Loachapoka received the second half's opening kick. However, officials blew the play dead as soon as the kick was blocked, nullifying the return.
Per an email from AHSAA personnel, the officiating crew made the incorrect call by blowing the play dead. Blocked extra points are blown dead as soon as they happen; field-goal attempts, however, can be picked up and advanced.
We can only speculate whether the touchdown would have given the Indians the surge they needed to hang around in the second half. Now, all Loachapoka can do is gear up for a big battle with Lanett on Friday.
The Red Devils didn't run many plays against Enterprise on Friday night, but you would never know it given the final score.
Central took care of the Wildcats quickly in a 42-13 victory in which the Red Devils jumped out to a 28-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Red Devils ended the game with only 39 plays on offense, a mark made extra remarkable given they had more points than that in their 21st consecutive region win dating back to 2016.
“We got out to a very fast start. That’s what we wanted to do going on the road. We felt really good about the game going into it,” Central head coach Jamey DuBose said. “Offensively, we scored on about the fourth play from scrimmage, and then I think we scored on every series in the first half except one touchdown that was called back. We ended up kicking a field goal, and unfortunately we hit the upright on that.
"I thought it was a very productive game.”
On the mend
Beulah walked away disappointed after its region loss to Bullock County on Friday. Given the scary situation the Bobcats faced Wednesday, the defeat was of little consequence with perspective.
The Bobcats had a major injury scare at practice when an unidentified player complained of spinal discomfort and numbness in his arm. The player was brought to Piedmont Columbus Regional, at which point tests confirmed everything was OK.
Johnson said after the Bullock County game that the player is “in a sling, but he’s doing fine.”