It feels bad enough that the Bulldogs haven’t been in a while. It feels worse that they’ve come so close, just missing the fourth spot in a brutal region two years in a row.
Playoffs? You want to talk about playoffs?
Yeah, the Bulldogs want to talk about playoffs.
“We’ve pushed ourselves and worked harder than we have in the last few years to really strive and make the playoffs this year,” said senior and third-year starting quarterback/defensive back Jared Edwards. “These boys have never had a taste of it.”
Indeed, one has to go back to 2007 to find the last time Ranburne made the playoffs. The team’s current seniors were seventh-graders.
Those who also play baseball have experienced deep runs in that sport.
“Baseball, that’s been our thing the last few years — pretty much dominate our area, go the Elite Eight or maybe go to the state championship or whatever,” said senior running back/linebacker Clayton Young. “But I feel like I’ve experienced the baseball stuff.
“Now I want to experience some of that out there (he points to the Bulldogs’ stadium) on that field.”
Making the playoffs has been tough for Ranburne. Until this year, they’ve shared a Class 2A region with the likes of Lineville, Woodland, Randolph County, Reeltown, LaFayette, Lanett and Horseshoe Bend.
“At one time, we had four or five teams in the top 10 from our region,” Ranburne coach Chad Young said.
Lineville merged with rival Clay County to form anticipated 4A power Clay Central, and this year’s realignment also sent Reeltown elsewhere.
Ranburne now must contend with second-ranked Fultondale, No. 8 Vincent and Wellborn, down from 3A. Woodland remains in the mix, but there’s not much recent playoff history between Pleasant Valley, Ohatchee and Victory Christian.
While realignment might whet Ranburne’s playoff appetites, recent history made them hungrier. Ranburne was 6-4 in 2010 but lost out in a tiebreaker.
“We actually finished tied for third and didn’t get either spot because of somebody out of our area and the tiebreakers,” Chad Young said. “It had nothing to do with us.”
The Bulldogs finished 5-5 a year ago and wound up losing out, partly because of an ineligible player at Randolph County.
“Wedowee actually finished first, according to record, but their ineligible player knocked them out,” Chad Young said. “That actually hurt us. We would have been better off if they had gotten to stay.
“We actually beat LaFayette, and they ended up getting the fourth (and final) spot.”
Internal discipline issues also impacted Ranburne a year ago, but lots of younger players saw action. The Bulldogs have 31 freshmen and sophomores, but some have game experience.
They lost all-region defensive end David Dake but return the majority of starters on both sides of the ball. Throw in recent playoff near-misses, and the Bulldogs have no shortage of hope and motivation.
“I’ve never played a playoff game,” Clayton Young said, “so I’m extra motivated for us to get there and see what it feels like.”
Said Edwards, “We want to bring that back to Ranburne. We want to bring that tradition back.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.