Maleek Pope was selected as The Daily Home Player of the Week after leading Sylacauga High School's football team to a 42-14 win over Beauregard on Friday. This is the second time that Pope has received Player of the Week honors this season.
"It's an honor," Pope said. "I thank my line; they did a great job of blocking on Friday. I thank the coaches because they put together a great offensive plan. I thank the offense for doing a great job of executing.
Pope rushed for a career-high 356 yards and four touchdowns on 16 carries against Beauregard. The senior running back had touchdown runs of 82, 78, 62, and 46 yards on Friday.
"It felt great," Pope said about his performance. "I have been putting in a lot of work. I want to thank God for letting me stay healthy."
Pope and the Aggies had extra incentives to play well against Beauregard last week as first-year head coach Rob Carter was playing his former team. Carter won a Class 5A state title during his seven seasons at Beauregard.
"It meant a lot to coach," Pope said. "They came out playing hard, and we came out playing better than they did. It was all for coach last week."
Pope has been playing on another level over the last month. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound running back has rushed for 993 yards and 15 touchdowns in his last four games.
"He is a dynamic player," Carter said. "He's a kid that has opportunities and does the most with it. "Our line works hard on staying on blocks and giving him the opportunity to make plays. When I say dynamic, he's explosive in the open field. Nobody has really proven that they can catch him in the open field. He's a pleasure to coach, and he's great to have on offense. Defensives have to be concerned no matter how many they put in the box. We have faced eight or nine in the box, and he still continues to make plays. He is trying to prove himself for colleges. He's taking that chip on his shoulder and approaches each game with it to play his best."
Pope credits the work that he has put in on his body for the success that he's been having this season.
"It has been a lot of work. It has been a lot of stretching, a lot of exercising, it has been a lot of running to stay in shape," he said. "It has been a lot of work."
After getting off to a slow start, Sylacauga has won four games in a row. If the Aggies win out, they will extend their streak of winning seven or more games to 10 years.
"We have been playing great," Pope said. "The team has been putting in a lot of work, and we have been staying healthy. We have also been staying focused. If we continue to stay focused, we can have a good ride."
The Aggies were in this same position last season. Sylacauga survived 49-42 against Talladega. The Aggies then let a chance to clinch the second seed slip away as they fell to Holtville 31-27. Pope said they're approaching these last two region games with a higher sense of urgency than they had last season.
"We weren't really focused against Holtville last season, we thought we were going to go in there and win," Pope said. "We are focused this year. Right now, we are focused on Talladega. Next week, we will be focused on Holtville. We are not going to overlook anyone."