Ellwood Christian quarterback Jalen Furlow, right, hands off to Raheem Velazquez (32) during last week’s game against Selma High School. Ellwood will open the playoffs on Friday at Notasulga. -- File Photo

Ellwood Christian focused on playoff opener at Notasulga

Published 9:55pm Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Ellwood Christian Academy Eagles repeatedly made school history throughout the regular season, and now they’ll look to make more when they enter their first-ever playoff game.

The Eagles (5-5, 4-3 Class 1A-Region 3) will travel to the Notasulga Blue Devils (7-3, 7-0, Class 1A-Region 4) on Friday at 7 p.m. in Ellwood’s first playoff game in the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

Mike Stokes, head football coach of Ellwood Christian Academy, said that while the Blue Devils aren’t that big, they more than make up for it with their speed.

“They’re not a very big team, but they’re very athletic,” Stokes said. “They’ve got a no. 4 down there that we’ve got to contain him all night and play good defense.”

For the majority of Ellwood’s players, Friday will be their first taste of playoff football.

And with the two-hour trip east to Notasulga getting closer and closer, Stokes said maintaining poise and focus is key for Ellwood.

“My thing right now is keeping the guys focused. It’s the first time for 95 percent of them going to the playoffs,” Stokes said. “They’re excited, but we’ve just got to keep them calm, keep them focused and get them prepared to play.”

And one thing that Stokes said is helping the Eagles stay focused is the knowledge that from now on it’s a one-game season.

“We tell them that it’s a new season, which it is. The season starts all over, but the one thing about this one is that it’s one and done,” Stokes said. “So we’re just trying to get them to go one game at a time. That’s our focus right now.”

Stokes added that if the Eagles can play solid in each phase of the game, they’ll have a shot to win.

“Defense has won a lot of ball games for us. Offense has gotten a lot better as the season has went along, but I think if we play a complete football game on defense, offense and special teams, we’ll be alright,” Stokes said.

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