Benjamin Russell coach Aubrey Blackwell has reiterated the same point on a few occasions this week: The Wildcats are the best 1-6 team in the state.
Their schedule has done them no favors, with few breaks scattered among a difficult region and D-1 running back and quarterback prospects to handle in several contests.
Benjamin Russell lost to Huffman by two points and trailed Central of Clay County by the same margin in the fourth quarter before a late-game touchdown to ice it. Star sophomore quarterback Gabe Benton went down early against undefeated Helena and the team had to rely on its third-string option in Ty Williams, a converted defensive back, in both that game and against Wetumpka.
Chilton County’s season reflects a similar vein of struggle.
The Tigers are 2-5 with an eight-point loss against Helena and a defensive 21-7 defeat at Wetumpka included among the five. Both teams could possibly be better than their record. Both can prove it in some small way Friday.
“It’s a group that’s playing hard, and they’ve had a lot of chances to win a lot of games. A lot like us,” Blackwell said. “They’ve been in a lot of games. Just haven’t quite caught the breaks yet to get more in the winning column.
Benjamin Russell has put its best results together when its entire team is healthy.
That may be as obvious as saying a bird flies best when its wing isn’t broken, but health has been less of an expectation and more a luxury this year for the Wildcats. Their full starting lineup has only been available for two games this year, their lone win at Smiths Station and last week’s game against Pelham, where they very nearly pulled an upset win.
This week, health is again of concern to Blackwell. Undisclosed key players are day-to-day entering the contest.
“It’s gonna be a war,” Blackwell said. “Especially if we aren’t 100% healthy.”
Speaking on Chilton County itself, Blackwell first spoke to the effort, energy and discipline the team plays with under coach Tal Morrison, a colleague and friend of Benjamin Russell’s head man.
Of the players, the best of them could be sophomore outside linebacker and tight end DeMarcus Riddick, who already holds collegiate offers from the likes of Georgia, Florida, Florida State and Arkansas among others.
“He’s a tough kid on defense and plays tight end for them; they’ll try to get him the ball at tight end,” Blackwell said. “Overall, those kids play hard and we’re gonna have to play really well to beat them.”
Chilton County quarterback Cannon Miller plays point guard for a few productive receivers around him, including junior Jakeveon Bolding and senior Taveus Good.
Blackwell said Bolding single-handedly “took over” the Tigers’ game at Helena Oct. 1.
“He made four or five catches in that game that were as good as any you’ll see in high school football in Alabama,” Blackwell said. “He just made play after play.”
Benjamin Russell and Chilton County kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at the Charles E. Bailey Sportplex.