Elba trying to slay their Goliath

Elba (6-0; 4-0) faces undefeated Houston Academy this week in a region battle.

When Elba (6-0; 4-0) won their first game of the 2009 season in a 14-0 decision over 4A Opp the response was "OK good hard fought defensive game."

When they garnered an 7-6 overtime win over region opponent Cottonwood, the thought was: Heart? Check. Defense? Check. Offense? MIA. With 17-14 wins over Barbour County, and 13-12 over G.W. Long the question was "how long can they live on the edge."

Then a funny thing happened, they found their offense with a 40-18 win over 3A Geneva followed by a 52-14 win over New Brockton.

The next question? Has this team improved enough to play with Houston Academy (6-0; 4-0)?

Elba head coach Scott Rials talked about what clicked for his offense.

"We struggled early taking care of the football," Rials said. "We solved those problems, and we ignited. We have a sophomore quarterback (Gunnar McCullough), and he has matured with the experience."

Michael Lindsey, appears as the subject of discussion after every game.

"Michael is a special player," Rials said. "He played as an eighth grader, and I've been coaching 12 years. I have never started an eighth grader. He scored 15 touchdowns that year. We moved him to quarterback last year for part of the year, and he had 1,000 yards passing and rushing. We moved him back to slot receiver. He is a special player, outstanding."

"Carlos Matias is a senior linebacker. He started as a freshman and scored seven touchdowns against Opp on offense in a game. He is a real talent. Good feet, 4.6 guy with a lot of energy."

Richard Cooks picked off three passes in the win over New Brockton. The 6-3, 210-pound outside linebacker seems to have what makes a good player great, a knowledge of all phases of the game.

"He kicks, he punts, plays linebacker and wide receiver," Rials said. "He scored 22 points last week, three interceptions, one for a touchdown. He also caught a touchdown pass. He made a field goal and was a perfect seven for seven on point-after kicks."

"He is really coming into his own."

Coach Rials went on to compare him very favorably to Kikko Logan, the Elba graduate and sophomore at Vanderbilt University.

This week presents a new set of challenges.

"Houston Academy is known very well as a dominant team," Rials explained. "Eight to 12 wins a year. They are a solid team. The stretch play they are very good at. Patient running, solid on offense and defense, solid kicking game. They are probably the best we've seen."

Rials shared his thoughts on what it will take for his underdog team to beat Houston Academy.

"We've got to slow them down," he said. "They have neem very consistent with the play action/bootleg.

"They have a good senior quarterback (J.H. Johnson). We have to keep them in long yardage situations, then take care of the football. We have got to run and pass well. We need to stay in short yardage situations. Stay away from penalties. Good kicking game."

"Maybe we can match up with them if we minimize our mistakes."

Houston Academy is loaded with seniors while some of Elba's key players are youngsters including their quarterback and leading playmaker, Lindsey.

Meanwhile, Houston Academy is talking about winning a state championship, Elba is talking about matching up with Houston Academy. Which attitude will win this game?

Players to watch:

Elba:

Richard Cooks, 6-3, 210 pound senior wide receiver, outside linebacker and straight-on old-fashioned kicker.

Michael Lindsey, 5-10, 160 pound freshman running back/receiver is fun to watch.

Carlos Matias, 5-10, 195 pound senior running back who has been a leader and producer for this team since he was a freshman. Look for him to take his role as a leader tonight.

Houston Academy:

Andrew Dauphin, 5-11, 175 pound senior running back has already rushed for almost 1,200 yards in six games.

J.H. Johnson, the 6-2 senior quarterback is the key in this game.

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