SYLACAUGA -- Sylacauga’s high school football team will travel a short distance west on U.S. 280 to battle rival Childersburg on Friday night.
Kickoff is set for 7.
The Aggies (3-1, 1-1) hold a 45-21-2 series lead over the Tigers (1-3, 1-2). Sylacauga won its meeting with Childersburg, 42-18, in 2015.
Sylacauga head coach Matt Griffith said his team is fortunate to have had two weeks to prepare for the matchup against a Childersburg team that looks to play well-disciplined football.
“The thing about it is they’re trying their best to do things right,” he said. “It’s obvious when you watch them. We went and scouted them last week. They’re not tolerating a lot of dumb penalties and those type of things.
“We expect it to be a typical Sylacauga-Childersburg county rivalry game … We feel we’re as prepared as we can be.”
He added the Tigers have several weapons on offense that concern him.
“Childersburg always has those two or three athletes who worry you,” Griffith said. “The receiver (Syheem Young) is a really good athlete. He goes up and gets the football. The running back (DK Mann) does a very good job and is a hard-nosed kid.
“They lost their quarterback in the jamboree game, and they moved the (KC) Calhoun kid there. (He) is a heckuva athlete. People forget a couple of years ago, his brother was the running back who was so good for them.”
But Sylacauga boasts an exceptional athlete of its own in running back Alex Thomason, who Griffith said is more than the young man he is on the gridiron.
“The thing about Alex people don’t realize is this -- last week, he was Student of the Month,” he said. “He’s not only a good athlete and a good running back, he’s an outstanding student. He’s one of the best kids in our school.
“He’s a great, quiet leader in the locker room, so we can’t say enough about him and what he brings to the team. He’s that type of kid (who) brags on his teammates and gives them a lot of credit. We can’t be more proud of how Alex is playing.”
Griffith said he doesn’t envision his Aggies having a down week against the Tigers, who’ve only beaten the Aggies twice in the last 10 seasons, but stranger things have happened.
“That’s always a concern going in, but I’ll tell you something now, this week may have been the best week of practice we’ve had in a while,” he said. “Our kids were very focused all week this week. I thought our Tuesday and Wednesday practice was as good as we’ve had all year.
“I’ll be shocked if we don’t come ready to play. You never know when you’re dealing with 15-, 16- and 17-year-old kids. I don’t think we’ve lost focus at all this week.”
Tigers first-year head coach Jonathan Beverly said his team is motivated to end its recent track record of futility against the Aggies.
“Our seniors realize they’ve only beaten Sylacauga once in their tenure, and they were freshman then, so not a lot of them were actually on the field when it happened,” he said. “But these seniors for sure want to get that bitter taste out of their mouths and beat their rival.
“We’ve got so many Childersburg alumni that are at our school and on our coaching staff. This is just a huge game for them, too. Everybody in Childersburg is excited. Everybody’s motivated. Sylacauga is a great football team, but we’re looking forward to the challenge. We really want to win this rivalry game.”
He added the Tigers’ chances for victory hinge on their ability to keep Thomason in check and protect the ball when they have offensive opportunities.
“Coach Griffith does a great job of running the football and having his team ready to run the ball down your throat, so we’ve got to be able to stop that and find ways to make them pass. I’m not saying they don’t do that well, but first and foremost, they want to run the ball,” Beverly said.
“On the offensive end of things, we’ve got to take care of the football. The one constant in our losses has been that we’ve turned the ball over too much, and the game that we’ve won, we took care of the football … Ball security is something we preach day-in and day-out, so if we can stop the run and take care of the football, we’ll give ourselves a chance to have the opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter.”