All coaches will say they’re not looking ahead to the playoffs.
They all know the next game is the most important.
But the playoffs are pretty important too, and both those statements will ring true for Benjamin Russell’s football team tonight. Wildcat fans will certainly be keeping their eyes on the Calera-Selma, but if the Wildcats can pull off an upset of their own, they’ll be in a lot better shape to make a push for a playoff spot out of Class 6A Region 3.
But it definitely would take an upset as Benjamin Russell (3-3, 0-2) will travel to face Opelika (4-1, 2-0), which is ranked No. 9 in 6A in the Alabama Sports Writers Association rankings.
“There’s so much uncertainty there so to me, we’re wasting our thoughts and time on that,” BRHS coach Kevin Smith said. “We have to take care of what we can take care of, and I know that sounds like coach speak but we can’t get sidetracked and start thinking about that because then you start wasting time on things that you have no control of. Is it important? Sure. But are we going to sit around and think about it? No.”
Smith and the Benjamin Russell coaching staff have bigger things to think about and that’s the Bulldogs — literally.
“They’re typical Opelika; they’re big and fast,” Smith said.
Opelika runs a well-rounded offense that has scored at least 10 points in every game but it certainly isn’t overpowering. It’s averaging just 23.0 points per game and it hasn’t met Benjamin Russell’s defense yet, which is allowing only 15 ppg.
The Bulldogs are directed by quarterback Brody Davis, with whom Smith has a special connect. Smith and Davis’s father were roommates in college.
“Brody Davis has really grown up and he’s starting to show what he’s capable of,” Smith said. “He’s gotten better each week and he’s got a great arm. Brody is a big body and can hurt you just because he can stand flat-footed and throw the ball around.”
If there’s anyone Davis is going to throw to, it’s going to be O’Marion Holloway, who boasts a ton of speed. Jamius Mitchell is also a big target in the short game and runs the ball well.
“Any time you have that kind of speed in Holloway, he’s a threat to go,” Smith said. “He’s a really fast individual. You have him and Mitchell and their offensive line is about like ours. They just keep leaning on you.
“I have a lot of respect for our defense though so I think it’ll be a battle up front — as long as we can keep from giving them cheap things and stay in the game. We need to keep it in the ballgames and grind it out and throw when we need to throw. We don’t want people to dictate when we’re going to throw but you can’t do that when you get behind.”
Benjamin Russell will see the return of quarterback Carter Smith. Although the Wildcats ran the ball well without him last week against Chilton County, Smith adds an important element to the offense.
“Hopefully this week we’ve got a little bit more with Carter coming back,” coach Smith said. “We’ll have at least the option of a quick release and we can keep Elijah (Spivey) on the field doing what he does (at receiver). We understand that the team personality has grown over the last three weeks to running the ball; it doesn’t matter who we’re facing. But having somebody out there that now if they do bring eight or nine in the box, he can get it out of his hands pretty quickly and with some kind of spin on it.”
But Carter Smith and the rest of the offense will once again be up against a defense that’s similar to Stanhope Elmore, which posed a lot of problems for BRHS.
But Benjamin Russell’s offensive line comprised of Brandon Sherrum, Dimitri Johnson, Damien Lawry, Noah Benton and Joe Young is really starting to come together, and Smith is hopeful those guys will be able to hold their own against a tough Bulldog front.
“We’re going to use our strength which I believe is our offensive line and our running back,” Smith said. “We can get outside several different ways whether it’s the quick passing game or getting Za (Stowes) out there quick.”
Stowes will once again be utilized on both sides of the ball.
WILDCATS-BULLDOGS AT A GLANCE
Game data: Benjamin Russell Wildcats at Opelika Bulldogs … Class 6A Region 3 game … Tonight, 7 p.m.
Media: Join us for Inside the Lines Live on the Outlook Facebook page at 6 p.m. tonight … Follow @liziarbogast on Twitter for live updates from the game … Listen live on Kowaliga Country 97.5.
Teams: Benjamin Russell (3-3, 0-2) is coming off back-to-back wins including a 55-7 demolishing of Chilton County last week … The Bulldogs (4-1, 2-0) had a bye last week.
Series: The Wildcats lead the series, 37-33-3, but Opelika won last year’s meeting, 29-3.
Outlook prediction: Opelika 28, Benjamin Russell 10.