Linden vs. Sweet Water

The southwest corner of Alabama is laden with talent, from 4A Thomasville to Jackson. Never mind the bay area with UMS-Wright, Vigor, Davidson and company. The most successful teams of late have been the 2006 and 2007 1A and 2A champions Sweet Water and Leroy.

The two also won their division titles in 2004, and they are just an hour apart. Both will line up Friday night on their quest to repeat those championships.

Sweet Water (12-1) will host a closer foe in 1A Linden (13-0). The two teams stake their homes within a half-hour of each other and have played some of the best football in the state this year.

The Sweet Water team has few weaknesses. They have outscored opponents 624-94 thus far and shut out six opponents. Their three playoff games have only seen one touchdown from an opponent, and that was Brantley's talented athlete Anthony Gulley, but that's it, seven points.

Sophomore running back Chris Landrum (6-1, 205) and junior running back Johnny Lockett (5-11, 185) are two in a cast of what seems like a thousand who will need to be stopped by the Linden Patriots.

The Patriots have some missiles of their own with senior running backs Maurice Tate (5-11, 220) and Shantrell Braxton (6-1, 210). Together the two have rushed for 3,742 yards and 61 touchdowns this season in their 13 wins.

Linden has done nothing wrong in outscoring their opponents 623-158. They have limited seven opponents to less than eight points per game.

While Brantley gave Sweet Water more of a finesse offense to defend last week, this week's challenge is more similar to their own approach to the game, and there is good reason for that.

Coach Andro Williams in his second year at Linden played for Sweet Water from 1990-1994 and took on the defensive coordinator position for Coach Stacy Luker for five years before striking out on his own.

The apple has not fallen far from the tree. Williams has a 23-3 record in his two years, but there is one footnote, one of those losses was to his Alma Mater and resulted in a loss of 56-8 last season.

There are reasons to believe this team can compete with the Bulldogs this year. Coach Williams' team has had their feet held to the fire and puffed their chests and did things to win games that Sweet Water has not had to do.

Maurice Tate stopped a two-point conversion by Billingsley two weeks ago that would have given the Bears a victory, instead Linden advanced in the playoffs with the 33-32 win. Wins like those build character.

Linden, with Tate and Braxton leading the way, rushed for 207 yards against Loachapoka (9-3) last week giving them the 24-6 victory.

Coach Williams has other things on his mind though, and the fact his team put the ball on the ground three times is something they can ill-afford to do this week.

Coach Williams talked about their practice like this week.

"They have been good," Williams said. "We've got a real good plan. We just have to execute it and do what we do. We have had really good days this week. They know what we want to do, and that is half the battle right there. That's all I can ask for."

"You aren't going to be able to make mistakes against this football team. They are just like a well-oiled machine. They are going to do what they do, and they are going to do it well. We can't make mistakes. If you make mistakes you are going to have problems."

Williams doesn't believe the familiarity with his former coach and program will help him in this game.

"I could probably still be coaching there all year, and that wouldn't matter," he said.

"We know they are going to do a good job, and we know basically what they are going to do. Everybody they play knows what they are going to do, but they are good at making adjustments. This is not their first rodeo."

"It's been just like it was last week," Williams says of getting ready for Sweet Water. "The same way. We are just trying to have an opportunity to win. We are glad to have the opportunity to be playing in the next round."

"Our defensive group, as a whole, have played well down the stretch. This team finds ways to get better. We are striving to get better each and every week. That's what it is about."

"Your kids have to stay within your system and do what you've been doing all year, what we have been successful with and continue to work on. Our kids believe in what we are doing, and that's why we are where we're at. They are working hard and laying the chips on the line. They have done everything they need to do as a football team."

Williams also said the Patriots come into the game 100-percent on the injury front.

We had to question the noticeable change in Williams' voice since mid-season. He has a raspy voice that gives the indication the long season might be taking a physical toll on the coach.

"I've been doing a lot of talking the last couple of days," Williams countered. "We've really been doing more talking than we have anything else, trying to prepare."

"I'm just coming off the field and just getting warmed up."

Coach Williams is going to leave no stone unturned. His dedication to his team and the desire to reach the finals in Birmingham will drive him to this year's destiny, whatever that may be. Whatever the result, this is a great football team led by a great coach.

Track all Alabama high school prospects by subscribing to for as little as $7.95 a month which includes all premium content across the network and all video.


(return to front page here)

Preps AL Top Stories