Talladega’s football team will make a 3 ½-hour trek to take on No. 7 Headland in the first round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 4A playoffs tonight at 7.
Talladega is making consecutive postseason appearances for the first time 1994-95 after losing at Carroll 12-6 in the opening round a year ago.
Even though the Tigers are elated about being back in the playoffs, they are not satisfied with just being there. Talladega enters tonight’s contest seeking its first-ever playoff win.
“Just to go to the first round of the playoffs is not good enough, we need to win,” Talladega head coach Ted Darby said. “We need to do something that hasn’t been done and get back here to Mary Dumas (Stadium, for the second round).
“Like I told the kids, this is a new season, everybody is 0-0 right now. It doesn’t matter what you did in the season, it is the playoffs. There are a lot of teams in the state of Alabama that aren’t in the playoffs. We are looking at it as a new season.”
Talladega ended the regular season with a 23-7 victory over Moody. The win snapped a two-game losing streak and, more importantly, helped the Tigers even their record at 5-5.
Darby said it was a tale of halves for his team against the Blue Devils.
“We were two different football teams,” Darby said. “The first two quarters, weren’t too good. I took them in at halftime, and we had to have an attitude adjustment. We came back out in the third and fourth quarter and played Talladega football.
“We can’t have that. We are not playing a complete four quarters and we are not playing all three phases. Those are things if they are not corrected, you will be one-and-done in the playoffs.
“If our team can do what they are supposed to do and play football the way that they are capable of playing in all three phases, we can beat Headland. We can beat anybody we play depending on our heart, guts and mental preparation.”
Carroll was ranked No. 2 in 5A for last year’s playoff matchup, and it was Talladega’s first postseason game in 23 years. (Reclassification moved the Tigers down to 4A for 2018.)
Darby said having players with playoff experience has been beneficial because they can help the underclassmen understand what to expect.
“Our kids had big eyes last year, and this year, our kids seem to be settled down,” Darby said. “I feel good about our attitude and the way we are approaching this. We are going to leave around 8:45 a.m. and we are going to go to another high school for a walkthrough.
“I will have them all day, so I can keep their mind focused on Headland. I feel good; we just have to be consistent.”
Headland (9-1) is looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season. The Rams fell to Abbeville 32-27 last week.
Headland has a prolific offense that averages 38 points per game and a stingy defense that limits opponents to 20. Darby said he challenged his defense to shut down Headland’s attack.
“I told them (Wednesday) that I expect them to take the game over,” Darby said. “I expect them to suffocate them like an anaconda.
“We need to give the offense a lot of chances. You win championships on the back of your defense. We need to play the defense we played the first few games of the season. We need them to be running on all cylinders because they have some great players on offense.”