One win away …

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Most teams would be thrilled to be in the position Maplesville is in right now.

The Red Devils are one win away from going to Birmingham and playing for the 1A state championship.

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They’re not just beating quality opponents. They’re putting up scores against them that would suggest they’re one of the best teams in the state, regardless of class.

Last week’s 25-14 win over Brantley was the first playoff game this year in which Maplesville (12-0) didn’t win by at least three touchdowns.

And while the abundant offense, the recognition – and yes, the wins – are all nice, this team might as well be light years away from the Steel City.

“They celebrated a little bit, but they’ve come back down now,” Maplesville coach Brent Hubbert said of his players.

“Last week’s goal was to beat Brantley, but that’s not THE goal. I expected them to be up a little bit more, to be more excited. But they’ve been like that all year. I’m an intense guy, and I’m a little disappointed when guys aren’t as intense. But they show up to play every week.

“I guess I’ve just gotten used to it over the years.”

The Red Devils weren’t quite as business-like in Hubbert’s previous two seasons as coach.

Then again, they didn’t have as much at stake. When Hubbert arrived, the team was coming off a winless season. Most folks around the town don’t even recognize the one win that came via forfeit.

A 5-6 record and one-and-done trip to the playoffs came during the first year of Hubbert’s tenure. Last season, there were eight wins but another one-game playoff run.

This year, Maplesville is not only representing itself as the class of 1A football. It is very close to celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the only state championship in school history.

And another ring would be a great way to start the party.

There’s just one problem with that.

The Devils’ opponent Friday night is defending state champ Sweet Water.

The Bulldogs (11-1) have outscored their three postseason opponents this year 152-14, most recently beating Sunshine 55-0.

Sweet Water was also the last team to beat Maplesville, winning 35-27 in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

But unlike last season, Maplesville will play this game in its home stadium.

“We’re excited to be playing here,” Hubbert said. “We’ve got the home crowd with us. The home crowd and the fans had a lot to do with the intensity of the last five minutes of the game last week.”

That period of the game included two interceptions by Nick Andrews, the first of which put the Devils ahead for good.

Now Maplesville has to stop Sweet Water’s three-headed monster in the backfield.

Quarterback Drew Luker and tailbacks Dominique Holt and Anthony Landrum are the difference makers for the Bulldogs.

Luker is a coach’s kid who makes smart reads and accurate throws. Landrum (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) and Holt (5-foot-9, 210) provide a thunder and lightning running game.

However, the horses that pull the wagon are at the front of Hubbert’s mind.

“Their offensive line comes off the ball real well,” he said. “They just move folks out of the way. That worries me a little bit. It worries me a lot, actually.”

Maplesville’s defense, while as quick as anyone else’s, doesn’t have a lot of size.

The Devils have done a fairly good job of countering whatever weaknesses they have by outthinking and even tricking their opponents.

In last week’s game, fans saw a double pass and a behind-the-back handoff that picked up big chunks of yardage.

But Hubbert kept mum about what he had up his sleeve next.

“You gotta bring your $7 and find out.”