Long time coming

Published 1:38 pm Wednesday, November 7, 2007

By By Matthew Nascone
The AHSAA state playoffs are coming back to Atmore. It has been 14 years, but Friday night the Escambia County Blue Devils host the Elmore County Panthers in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
The Devils face what head coach Kyle Davis calls a mirror image of themselves in the Panthers.
"They are about an exact replication of us," he said. "They run the same offense and defense as us and it should be a long game because both sides will throw the ball about 20-25 times. This very well could turn into a shootout because the style of both offenses."
The Blue Devils (7-3, 6-1 AHSAA Class 4A, Region 1) had a mini letdown last week, losing 49-20 to the Class 6A Satsuma Gators on Senior Night in Atmore, but Davis said if his team can get back to playing how they did at the beginning of the year they should be all right.
"Last week was a little disappointing from a defensive standpoint," Davis said. "We need to get back to playing that aggressive defense we were playing at the beginning of the year."
There could be no better time than now for the Devils to revert back to their old selves.
"The playoffs are a time to start over," Davis said. "Everyone is 0-0 and you can throw records out the window because it is all about winning. You win and you move on, you lose and you go home."
And there is no loss for excitement in Atmore.
"These kids are excited and we had one of the best practices we have had in the past three weeks Monday," Davis said. "Maybe after we wrapped (the region) up with the Monroe County game, these guys tried to put it into cruise control. I don't think we were as focused in practice leading up to last week's game and it showed. I gave them 15 minutes in the locker room before practice (Monday) to have a team meeting and talk about things and get things back on track. It must have worked because like I said we had a phenomenal practice."
The team is focused and Davis laid out a plan for winning a state championship for them.
"I told them there are five steps you have to take to be a champion and step No. 1 is Friday night at Herbert Barnes Stadium," he said. "And our practice was more intense because of the playoff intensity."
Davis said the Devils are going to need the playmakers that have produced all year to continue that production Friday night.
"Katral has to step up because he had a bad game against Satsuma and he knows it," he said. "That was very uncharacteristic of the type of game he plays to have two turnovers, no scores and under 100 yards. We have talked about that and he knows what he has to do for us to win. Rico also has to continue to get better. He fell off a little last week, but I know he will pick it back up this week."
On the defensive side of the ball Davis said three guys need to make plays Friday night because of the type of offense Elmore County runs.
"Nate Davis, Jarrod Jefferson and Darious House have to play the best football they have played all year Friday night in order for us to shut down Elmore County," Davis said. "If they play their assignments we will have a good night because we are going to throw some stuff at them they have not seen on film."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Herbert Barnes Stadium.
Anyone interested in purchasing a playoff royal long sleeve T-shirt should swing by the front office of the high school. Davis said the shirts should be available at ECHS today.

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