No. 10 McAdory (10-2) at No. 4 Southside (12-0)
Last week’s results: Southside 28, Cullman 21; McAdory 34, Pinson Valley 17
Series record: First meeting
By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
In 1980, Jimmy Carter was U.S. President, the United States hockey team defeated Russia in the semifinals of the Olympics in what was called the “Miracle on Ice” and the rock group “Iron Maiden” released its debut album.
In addition, Southside High’s football team went undefeated that year until the third round (then the semifinals) of the playoffs, losing to Hartselle by a 24-14 score. The Panthers finished 12-1.
Southside hasn’t had a lot of football luck over the ensuing 33 years, having made the playoffs only five times and winning only one postseason game.
In 2013, however, the Panthers have made it to the third round (or quarterfinals) and will face McAdory tonight (Nov. 22) at Barney Hood Stadium.
“It’s been a dream season,” said senior offensive lineman T.J. Simmons. “But there’s a lot left to accomplish. We seniors want to go a lot farther and do something that’s never been done at Southside.”
The season didn’t get off on a good note, as coach Marty Smith resigned the day before the season opener. Offensive coordinator Ron Daugherty was promoted to interim head coach on the morning of the first game.
“We just put all of that behind us,” said sophomore linebacker Hunter Armstrong. “We’ve made the best out of what we have and went with it. Some teams may have let that be a distraction, but we were too strong for that.”
Indeed they were. The Panthers went from a 35-14 win over Hokes Bluff on opening night to a 12-0 mark that is only one win away from a school record. The 1980 team’s 12 wins still stands as the standard.
“We’ve got one coach (Don Stewart) who reminds us of the history on a daily basis,” Armstrong said. “It keeps us motivated to know we’re making school history.”
Another record on the verge of being broken is the points scored mark. In 1980, the Panthers scored 410 points and this year’s version has already scored 396.
“I wasn’t planning on scoring any points,” joked Daugherty. “But I guess we should score a couple of touchdowns for that record.”
Joking is a big part of Daugherty’s success. His lighthearted methods work well and create a relaxed clubhouse atmosphere.
“They’re always loose until they get on the field,” Daugherty said. “They know that work is work and they know when to get serious about it.”
It’s apparent to a visitor that the relaxed atmosphere helps create a camaraderie that isn’t always evident in field houses. From stealing cell phones to practical jokes, the Panthers are always laughing and cutting up.
Until game time.
Not even “name” teams have intimidated Southside. Last week, Cullman visited last week and attempted to use brash manners and some big hits to bait the Panthers. Nothing doing.
“We knew we had as much strength and speed as (Cullman),” senior linebacker Colton Clay said. “They came in with a lot of different formations and plays to try and confuse us. We knew they could play dirty, but we didn’t know they were that dirty.”
The Bearcats committed most of their brashness in the first half, as Southside fought to a 14-14 deadlock at intermission.
“They weren’t nearly as talkative in the second half,” Clay said. “I guess they saw that we were there to play.”
For all the talk about the offense, the defense has definitely done its part this season. So far, the opposition has scored only 176 points for an average of 14.7 per game.
For the record, McAdory has gone to the playoffs 18 times during the 20 seasons that David Powell has been head coach. Powell has accumulated a 164-59 record, including last year’s trip to the 5A state championship game.
The Yellow Jackets went to the semifinals in both 2009 and 2010.
“It’s the most important game because it’s the next one,” Simmons said. “We don’t get into anything about who the other team is or anything. We just go out and play our game.”