Lee-Scott vs. Tuscaloosa Academy high school football

Lee-Scott Academy fullback Thomas Whatley (10) runs after a catch in the first half of the Warriors' game against Tuscaloosa Academy on Friday, Oct. 11 in Auburn.

For the first time since 2015, the Lee-Scott Warriors and Springwood Wildcats will meet as soon-to-be playoff squads. Tonight’s contest between the two will offer a final tune-up before the postseason as well as a chance to earn bragging rights.

Springwood (4-5, 1-2) travels to Auburn to take on Lee-Scott (4-5, 1-3) at Judd Scott Field. The game is the regular season finale for both teams before Springwood starts the postseason as a third seed in the AISA Class AA playoffs and Lee-Scott starts as a fourth seed in Class AAA.

The Warriors have been through the ringer the last three weeks by playing their region’s top three teams, and they enter tonight’s showdown after a 29-20 loss to rival Glenwood last Friday.

Lee-Scott head coach Robert Johnson said he felt his team played well in spots against the Gators, but injuries that are common this time of year caused issues they simply could not prepare for. Fullback Thomas Whatley led the way with 115 rushing yards and two scores, but it was not enough to prevent the Warriors from losing their third straight game.

“I was proud of our guys’ efforts. I thought there were a lot of really good things we did. I thought we threw the ball very well and ran the ball pretty decently,” Johnson said. “Our defense played very well, but if we could have gotten off the field one or two more times it would have been a little different ballgame. Hats off to Glenwood.”

While Lee-Scott looks to get back on track, Springwood is hoping to keep things rolling.

Wildcats head coach John Gartman said his team has been playing as well as it has ever played in his two seasons with the team, and the results speak for themselves. Springwood handled region foe Lakeside a 59-33 defeat last week to give the Wildcats its second straight win and a sense that they’re moving in the right direction right before the playoffs.

“Things have kind of just started clicking,” Gartman said. “We’ve started executing better. We’ve done some different things on offense that I think have helped us. It’s just been coming together for us.”

Junior running back OJ Tolbert has been Springwood’s go-to guy this season, and that was the case again against Lakeside. Tolbert refused to go down against the Chiefs and ended the victory with 13 carries for 157 yards and four touchdowns.

“He’s been a very explosive player for us, even really since before I got here,” Gartman said. “OJ, he has good speed. He runs the ball hard. He has very good vision. He’s been an asset to us since I’ve been here. He’s done an outstanding job.”

Gartman credited Lee-Scott as being much improved from 2018, which did not surprise him given Johnson’s skill as a coach. Gartman said the Warriors are well-coached and fundamentally sound, which means the Wildcats need to play a clean game to have a chance at leaving Auburn with a road victory.

Johnson, meanwhile, credited Springwood’s offense as being very good and pointed to Tolbert, quarterback Jordan Plank and the Wildcats’ offensive line as players who stand out.

Johnson’s keys to playing Springwood were no different than they are for any game. He stressed controlling the line of scrimmage, especially maintaining blocks on offense. Execution on both sides will be crucial, and he called for his defenders to play their keys, maintain their gaps and rally to the ball.

The Warriors have been banged up after playing some of AISA’s best recently, but a victory to end the regular season tonight would certainly ease some of those pains.

“The last three weeks have been tough on us,” Johnson said. “We’ve kind of played a murderer’s row, so if we could get that win that would get our program back on track.”

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