A rivalry reborn?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Morgan, Wilcox Academy playing again in dormant series

By George L. Jones

The Selma Times-Journal

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Both Morgan Academy and Wilcox Academy need to end the season with a win – but for very different reasons.

The Wildcats (7-2, 5-2 Class AA Region 1) locked up a playoff spot weeks ago but took a big loss last Friday from Patrician and will have to travel in the first round. Starting the postseason on a two-game losing streak doesn’t help their chances of advancing.

The Senators (4-5, 3-4 Class AAA Region 1) have one final chance to redeem a terrible season by their standards. They could also possibly re-ignite what has been a dormant rivalry and be the final thorn in Wilcox’s side.

“That’s what I’ve been stressing to them,” Wilcox coach Chris Burford said. “No matter who we face, we need to play well. It’s hard to play a bad game and then turn around and play a good game. They have to treat this like a playoff game … You don’t just click on a light and play well the next week.”

There is some added history behind this game. Burford will be facing the coach he was an assistant under when Wilcox won a AAA state title in 1996.

Morgan coach Robert Gartman said even though the series has lost some fire – especially since the last meeting when Wilcox won 21-0 – this is still an important game for his kids.

“The motivation is to send the seniors out with a good taste in their mouths and give the young kids a good attitude going into the offseason weight program.”

One of the biggest matchup problems for the Senators is the quickness they will see on the other side of the ball.

“They’ve got good team speed,” Gartman said. “They’re very well coached, so we’ve got to contain them and keep them from getting to the outside. Offensively, we’re going to have to be able to run right at them.”

Burford also believes that even though it’s been a long time since these teams have met each other on the field, this is still a game that is very easy to get excited about.

He also believes Morgan can’t at all be judged by its record.

“With them being AAA and us AA, it took some of the rivalry out of it,” Burford said. “We’re trying to treat this as a football game we need to win. Coach Gartman is a great coach, and I learned a lot from him. This is going to be one of the better teams we’ve played this year.”

The Wildcats risk running into their first losing streak of the season this Friday. Judging by the way they’ve looked this week, Burford feels confident his team can go into the playoffs coming off a win.

“They’re ready to play,” he said. “We got beat last week, and when you get beat, you can do one of two things. You sulk in it, or you can practice hard and get ready for the next game.”

Perhaps the best thing for Morgan is it gets to end the season just as it began – at home. Maybe that also means the Senators can produce the same result as the season’s first game, a win over Macon East.

“We’ve had a pretty good week of practice,” Gartman said. “We’ve gone back to the basics as far as running the offense. We’re actually a little bit ahead as far as preparation.”