Tigers  welcome Saks at home this week

Coming off a 49-35 season-opening road loss against Weaver on Friday of last week, the Cleburne County Tigers welcome Saks to L.E. Bell Field on Friday. Saks opened with a 35-22 win over Alabama Christian in Montgomery.

“I think we had the right kids in the right places. We’re just trying to get them more comfortable running a little bit different of an offense that I think is going to pay dividends. I liked how physical we were,” Cleburne County offensive coordinator C.J. Boyd said of the Tigers offense’ against Weaver.

Boyd said he was pleased with the play of his offensive line of center Porter Embry, guards Brandon Rogers and Trent Pate and tackles Ben Oswalt and Cole Spurlin. Gage Harcrow and Valick Nolen played at tight end and Nolen was in the interior line rotation as well. That group will be challenged Friday by Saks’ stack defense that likes to blitz.

“We’ll have to do a good job on the offensive line picking up blitzers, making sure we have no run-throughs through the gaps,” Boyd said.

Defensive coordinator Ron Ervin said the challenge on defense Friday will be to avoid the big plays that Weaver had against the Tigers.

“Weaver and Saks are a lot alike,” Ervin said. “They live and breathe off the explosive plays. That’s what they want to get. They want to pop one.”

Ervin said the Tigers and the Wildcats have played “forever” and he doesn’t expect any changes in what Saks likes to do.

“Saks is going to keep it real simple. They want their kids to play fast. They’re going to try to get on the perimeter, try to get those one-on-one matchups,” Ervin said Wednesday. “They feel like their athletes are better than your athletes so they’re going to put them out there in space and see if they can win that one-on-one battle. Our job is to keep them out of space, keep them in that phone booth, so we can get 11 hats on the ball.”       

Ervin added: “I’ve been real happy with our week of practice so far on defense. Our kids responded well. They flew around. They were physical and intense. So far the last couple of days they’ve made all the adjustments to make all the calls.”                     

Against Weaver, Cleburne County rushed for 295 yards, passed for 90 yards and had 17 first downs. The Bearcats ran for 380 yards, passed for an additional 143 yards and also had 17 first downs.

Junior running back A.J. Brown netted 138 yards rushing on 28 carries with two touchdowns. Senior back Richard Cantrell ran 17 times for 102 yards and scored on the ground once. Junior quarterback Reese Morrison ran six times for 37 yards and Isavia Brown gained 10 yards on three carries. Dustan Ervin had one carry for eight yards.

Morrison was 3-for-11 passing for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Cantrell caught two passes, the first for28 yards and the second for 38 yards. Both produced touchdowns. C.J. Higgins caught one pass for 24 yards.         

Linebacker Rustin Roberts led the defensive effort with 10 tackles. Isavia Brown had eight stops, Higgins seven and Harcrow six. Cantrell, A.J. Brown, Cale Dingler and Zane Farr each made four tackles. Farr also recovered a fumble. Landon Whitmore, Travis McCary and Gavin Wright each had three tackles. Hunter Cavender got a turnover for the Tigers with an interception.

Weaver led 13-0 after one quarter and added a touchdown early in the second quarter to increase its lead to 20-0. A.J. Brown’s first touchdown came on a 2-yard run late in the second quarter but the extra point attempt was blocked. Weaver led 20-6 at halftime.   

The first points of the second half came on Morrison’s 28-yard pass to Cantrell. A.J. Brown ran for a 2-point conversion and the Tigers trailed just 20-14 with more than eight minutes left in the third period. Weaver closed out the third with two more touchdowns and led 35-14.

Brown’s 1-yard scoring run came with seven minutes to play and Hayden Stephens’ kick made it 35-21. Down 42-21, Cantrell scored on a 38-yard pass from Morrison. Cantrell added a 45-yard scoring blast up the middle in the final minute then set the final score with a 2-point conversion run.       

Bulldogs have high energy level

After choosing to play a jamboree last week, a second meeting with Randolph County, the Ranburne Bulldogs host Glencoe on Friday to officially open their 2018 season. At halftime of the jamboree, the part played by the two varsity teams, Randolph County led 28-20. That score was a sharp contrast to the result when the two varsities played in their spring jamboree and the Tigers won in a cakewalk.

Glencoe played a jamboree last week as well and new head coach Brian Alred’s Yellow Jackets lost at Sardis 21-0. Alred has brought a new attack with him from his former job at Ragland.

“They run the Ohatchee, Fyffe style of offense,” Ranburne head coach Stephen Bailey said Tuesday evening.

That style features two tight ends, a tightly packed offensive line with a quarterback and one running back in a shotgun look and a blocking back and a wingback close to the line of scrimmage.    

“It’s hard because it’s so different. You have to adjust the things you do defensively to be in the right position. So here we are Week 1, we’ve been all camp trying to get our base stuff down and learned and now we’re going to have to do something completely different for a week then go back to what we were doing,” Bailey said. “That poses problems.”

The possible advantage is being better prepared later in the year when Ohatchee rolls around on the Bulldogs’ region schedule. White Plains has taken to the Fyffe offense, too.

“We’ve seen it before (in playoff games against Fyffe) so we’ve got a good idea of what we’re going to try to do,” Bailey said of the plan on defense.

Against Randolph County, quarterback Josh Ralston scored on a 67-yard run to make the score 7-6 in the Tigers’ favor. It was 28-6 when Ralston passed to Jake Burson for 35 yards and a touchdown. Brock Young kicked the extra point. Ralston followed with a rushing touchdown on a 3-yard quarterback keeper and Young’s second extra point made it 28-20.

Bailey singled out Gunner Hollis and Brennen Gaines for their play Friday.  

“They were excited last week,” Bailey said of the Bulldogs. “The energy level was really high going in. The energy was really good at halftime knowing what had gone on.”

Bailey expects that knowing this week will bring a game four quarters long will have the Bulldogs even more excited.