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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Horseshoe Bend's Gavin Brazzell, center, finds a hole and rushes in for a touchdown.

In a lot of ways, Horsesehoe Bend’s bye week is coming at the best time.

The Generals don’t have it too early when it doesn’t matter that much and they don’t have it too late when it might be past the point of making a difference for them. It also comes a week before the football team takes on its two most important games of the season.

“I think it’s coming at the right time for us,” HBS coach Jeremy Phillips said. “We were a little banged up. We had guys playing through some stuff. In football, you’re going to get knocks and bruises; that’s part of it. But the key is getting recovered and being able to go full speed when you’re back in there.” 

After taking this week off from game action, Horseshoe Bend will turn its sights to Vincent and Fayetteville in a pair of games that could determine who will take the No. 4 seed out of Class 2A Region 4.

The Generals took Monday off then used Tuesday and Wednesday to focus on improving themselves before really starting to hit the game plan for Vincent on Thursday. Friday night was spent scouting on the sidelines. The coaching staff will split up with some going to Vincent and some going to the Fayetteville-LaFayette game; those are the last three region opponents on the Generals’ schedule.

“We’ll have a chance to see all three, so it’s a good thing for us,” Phillips said. “The bye week, this is the best thing I think high school football has done. These kids need a break sometimes. It’s a mental reset. They’ve been going to practice every day for two or three hours a day, and it’s a grind on you. This week gives you time to decompress and come back refreshed next week.” 

For Phillips, a first-year head coach, it’s also given him and the rest of the coaching staff time to reflect on both the positives and negatives of the first half of the season. 

One big thing that’s hindered Horseshoe Bend is its depth, and while a lot of Class 2A teams struggle with that, Phillips is hopeful the extra rest will have his team recharged for the second half of the season.

“We knew going in our depth was going to be an issue so we’re trying to develop depth every week,” Phillips said. “When we have one guy go down, that’s about three or four different positions. It affects special teams, offense and defense. It gets hard to juggle that.”

Some other things the Generals are focused on improving are their special teams and maintaining good field position, and Phillips said there’s always room for improvement with tackling.

“Also, I don’t know what’s come over us the past couple weeks but we haven’t been protecting the ball well,” Phillips said. “We had six turnovers the other night; that’s unreal. Our defense has been causing turnovers good all season but the other thing we need to improve on is capitalizing when we do get turnovers.”

Although Horseshoe Bend is sitting at 1-5 (1-2), it still feels good about what’s to come. It’s currently in fifth place in the region and still has the Nos. 3, 4 and 6 teams left on the region schedule.

“I can’t say enough about our guys and our coaches,” Phillips said. “Things hadn’t really bounced our way this year so far but the thing is we still have a chance to make the playoffs. That’s what these guys understand. They’re still trying to learn. There’s no give up in them and that makes me proud as a coach.” 

And regardless of what happens this season, Phillips knows if the Generals continue to stick with it, the future is extremely bright. Horseshoe Bend has only a few seniors who contribute regularly, but the team is made up of mostly juniors and sophomores with even a few freshmen who are starting.

“Them putting their feet to the fire is going to help us in the long run,” Phillips said. “We’re taking our lumps now so hopefully it’ll pay off in the end.” 

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.