Linden at Maplesville

This week's matchup of the fourth and fifth ranked 1A teams is a game you would expect to see in late November. In fact, the last time Maplesville and Linden lined up it was November 23rd last season. The Red Devils took the third round game from Coach Andro Williams' Linden Patriots 34-14 in the state playoffs.

Maplesville 4-0 (4-0) will host this battle of undefeated region three teams. Linden brings their own perfect record 5-0 (4-0) into the contest with a hard fought win over a talented Billingsley team, 27-26, last week. Other than that, it has been smooth sailing for both squads.

Linden has averaged just over 50-points in each of their games, while Maplesville manages 43. The difference may be defensively where Maplesville gives up only 10 points per game, but Linden relinquishes a 17-point average.

That defensive figure is somewhat negated when you look at the strength of the two teams' schedules.

The Patriots have faced opposition with a combined record of 13-12 including a 3A team, while Maplesville's all-region opponents are a combined 4-16.

Coach Williams admits it is a tough game for Linden on the road, but his talented running backs may be the difference makers in this game.

Senior Maurice Tate (5-11, 200 pounds) has already rushed for 880 yards in the first five games, and his teammate senior Shantrell Braxton (6-1, 210 pounds) who transferred from Demopolis is his counterpart on offense with five 100-yard rushing games himself.

Either back could be a starter on just about any team. They both have the size and ability to play on the next level. Tate already holds a scholarship offer to go to Tuskegee and has the grades and ACT score to accompany.

"Maurice likes Auburn, and they like him. They said if some things fall through they are going to contact him back," Williams said. "They want him to walk on."

"He's hungry for what we offer him here as a player. He wants to lead our football team. He doesn't say a whole lot, but on the field that's when he rises up to the occasion. He works hard in the weight room."

"Maurce believes in the challenges that we've set. He's always working hard, a ‘gamer', loves to compete, and that's a sign of a champion."

Tate is a power runner who can show his finesse in the open field. Despite an injured ankle and limited defensive play, Tate led the team with seven tackles, two for a loss and rushed for 138 yards on 22 carries with three touchdowns. He has 47 total tackles on the season.

"Somebody will definitely get a steal with this kid," Williams surmises. "He's going to work hard in that weight room. He's going to do all the things to help himself and his team."

"He went to Auburn and Alabama camps more so for his defensive, but he looks good on the offensive side too. He might fit in someone's system offensively."

"He plays wide open on defense with a lot of energy."

Shantrell Braxton has found a new home with the Linden fooball team, and that has been brought on by some maturity that he lacked while at Demopolis. Maurice Tate has been good for Braxton.

"He's a great breakaway back threat," Williams said. "He's the guy that does a really good job of blocking for Maurice, and Maurice does the same for him. They are compatabile with each other. They just make us go."

Williams is in his second year with Linden after being defensive coordinator for the 1A champions Sweet Water.

We asked Williams his feelings coming into this matchup.

"The team had just had such a great day of practice yesterday that it was sort of scary. They were on an even keel, and they brought a lot of energy. They just had a great day, and figured out the routine."

"We lost nine starters on defense last year, and eight on offense along with a lot of subs. I think they are just now getting used to the atmosphere of how we are going to go practice and know the expectations of a practice. They just took it upon themselves to carry it out."

"I was really pleased with them. Of course, it helps to have a Maurice Tate on the team. He leads the charge, and everybody else follows suit."

"This will be a chess match. This is my second time as a head coach against Coach Brent Hubbert (Maplesville), but I've also been up against him twice as a defensive coordinator. So with four times, I feel like a veteran going to play him."

"I know he is going to have his players ready, and he is going to do a good job of playing chess. He'll move. I'll move. They move. We move. That's the kind of game that it is going to be."

"It's just going to come down to our kids being able to make adjustments as well as being able to be routine with what we are doing. We don't need to change a whole lot offensively or defensively. We just need to play our style of football. Do the little things and manage the game."

"Our senior quarterback (Ajalon Bruno) is stepping up. He's throwing the ball better. He needs to be an operator and manage the ballgame for us, and that's what he's getting better at."

"Last year was his first with me. He was a backup quarterback, and he started at corner the second half of the season.

"We didn't do a good job of being on an even keel during the course of the ball game last year. We got off to a slow start, and before we knew it they were up 20-0. Then we made a run, but you can't get behind against a good football team."

"Coach Hubbert is a genius in my book. What he tries to do and the way he gets his kids ready to play. I've got a lot of respect for him. He will have them ready to play and have them in position."

Join Friday night FREE CHAT. Click here and look for the "Friday Night Chat" icon at the upper left of the message board.

(return to front page here)

Preps AL Top Stories