Ellis and the Ft. Payne Wildcats will take on Class 4A Boaz (7-2) on Friday night, and they aren? overlooking the smaller team, knowing the Pirates have fought their way to a successful season so far.
"The biggest thing we'e going to have to do is stop their downhill run game," said Ellis. They're very efficient at running the ball, and it's more of that old-timey smash-mouth football where they just run right at you. So we have to do a good job at stopping that or we won? have a chance to win the game."
Boaz head coach Drew Noles has a little more simplistic plan. He just wants his Pirates to keep the game close and the momentum in their direction. Unlike the Wildcats, there are few standouts on the Boaz roster, but, said Noles, everyone is just doing his part to pull the team along. And that seems to have worked well for them this year.
"We haven't won a lot of games by large margins. It's usually been by a touchdown or so, but our guys always seem to pull together and bring out a win," said Noles.
Only two players on the undersized Boaz team run even a 4.7 40, but despite the lack of speed and size, Noles still expected his team to make the playoffs this year. Granted, that was about his only expectations of the young team.
"We literally have a blank goal sheet hanging in our locker room right now," said Noles, in his eighth year of coaching for the Pirates. We just wanted to be a physical team, get into the playoffs and cause a few upsets along the way."
After starting the season 2-2, Boaz has been able to pull its season together even further and win out the rest of its games thus far and hopes to continue that success against one of the top 5A teams in the state this weekend.
Fort Payne's season has included strong play from junior quarterback Slade Smith, who has thrown for 24 touchdowns, including seven against Scottsboro last weekend in the Region 7 championship game.
Running back Nick Johnson has also run in 27 touchdowns on the year while Antwon Appleton has racked up over 800 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Defensively, Wildcat senior Coner McDonough has over 100 tackles.
Fort Payne has accomplished most of its season goals so far: to repeat as region champions and go undefeated on the season again. The Wildcats also hope to get at least to the third round of the playoffs this year, which is further than any Fort Payne team has seen in the postseason.
Going undefeated will be a tough pass still with Boaz still looming here as our 10th game," Ellis said. I think it's going to be a quality football game against a really good opponent."
"I think it will really help us to toughen up before the playoffs. Boaz and Fort Payne have played several times over the years, and both teams bring good crowds to the game. It's just a really exciting atmosphere."
Fort Payne will travel to Boaz Friday night to take on the Pirates at 7:00 p.m.
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