Keith, Southside and Morgan Academy prepare for playoff matches

Published 9:42 pm Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Now that the high school football regular season is over, the journey through the playoffs has begun for the teams that still remain. While Morgan Academy has already advanced to the semi-finals of the AISA 3A playoffs, Keith High School and Southside High School have their first-round match-ups this Friday.

The Keith High School Bears (6-4) finished third in their region, and will face the Abbeville Yellow Jackets (8-2) on the road.

The Bears would’ve been seeded higher in the playoffs had they not lost the last region game of the season to Thorsby.

Nevertheless, the team, the school and the community are excited to be in the playoffs. Since 2008, the Bears have only missed the playoffs once (2014). In head coach Harry Crum’s 17 seasons at Keith High School, this is the teams ninth playoff appearance. Unfortunately, the Bears haven’t had much luck in the past advancing past the first round in those years.

According to Crum, the Bears and the Yellow Jackets match-up pretty well against each other. Both teams are run-heavy and average more than 30 points per game on offense.

“Just looking at them on film, they’ve got a big, strong left-handed quarterback and a big strong running back,” Crum said. “We know we’re going to have to at least contain those two people if we’re going to have a good shot at coming out victorious.”

Crum said that his team will need to focus on minimizing mistakes and getting the ball to his playmakers in order to come out with a win.

“We’re going to have to minimize mistakes, because in the playoffs most people are good,” he said. “If you make a turnover or a mistake, then good teams will capitalize on that.”

This season, Crum has been able to depend on Jeashan Black, Levi Thomas, Jared Edwards and Trashaud Jackson for coming up with big plays on both sides of the ball.

The Southside Panthers (7-3) will also be on the road for a first-round playoff game against the No. 8 Clarke County Bulldogs (8-2).

Southside has made it to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Before 2016, the Panthers hadn’t made the playoffs since 2005. The last time the team advanced to the second round of the playoffs was in 2003.

The Panthers and their fans are excited about what this year’s playoff team can do.

“Everybody’s talking about it,” Southside head coach Daniel Flowers said. “You can tell it’s a little different than it was last year. Last year, we were happy to be there. This year, we’re trying to win.”

The Panthers have been on an offensive tear in the last three weeks scoring more than 50 points in that stretch.

However, the Bulldogs are one of the best teams in the state and allow fewer than 20 points per game to opponents.

Flowers said that this is going to be a very physical game against a really good team.

“They’re going to line up and run the football almost every play,” he said. “We’ve got to match their physicality to survive the first wave.”

Flowers and his team have heard the chatter assuming an easy win for the Bulldogs. The Panthers are already motivated to challenge Clarke County on the field.

“There’s a lot of people that don’t respect us and think it’s going to be a walk-in-the-park for Clarke County,” Flowers said. “I don’t think I’m going to have a hard time of motivating our guys for this game. I told the guys I don’t want this to be our last game of football this year, and they said the same thing. So, it’s going to be a battle.”

The Morgan Academy Senators (6-5) have made it to the second round of the playoffs and will have a re-match against the Monroe Academy Volunteers on Friday.

The Senators lost 56-20 earlier this season, but are going into this round fully healthy and ready for the challenge.

Morgan head coach Josh Thacker said Monroe is a very well-coached and disciplined football team.

Solid preparation and clock management will be important factors heading into this game, he said.

This is Morgan’s first trip to the semi-finals in six years, and Thacker’s first time with this team.