By Chad Dixon
Now that the 27th edition of “The Backyard Brawl” is behind us, it is time for the Smiths Station Panthers (2-1, 0-1) to get into the “meat” of their region schedule. As much as last week’s hype would negate this notion, a win over Central High wasn’t going to define the season for Panthers. Of course, a win over the Red Devils would have sent a statement. Central is a program with its eyes on the state title. Smiths Station entered 2018 with only one win over the past two seasons and within two weeks, doubled that total.
The mission statement for the Panthers quickly went from just put some wins on the board to possible playoff consideration. I think it is safe to say without too much hyperbole that Central and Auburn are the top two teams in Class 7A Region 2. That leaves five teams vying for the remaining playoff spots.
Smiths Station will travel to play the Enterprise Wildcats (2-1, 0-1) on September 14 in a pivotal match-up for both schools. Both teams had wins in their first two games of the season and both teams were on the wrong end of lop-sided scores last Friday. The Panthers lost to Central 49-0, while the Wildcats were defeated 35-0 by Auburn.
The Panthers and the Wildcats are young with several sophomores starting. Smiths Station’s quarterback combo of Corey Minton and Jacob Blackmon were a combined 2-for-5 with 53 passing yards against Central, while Enterprise’s Grant Thornton was 9-for-19 for 43 passing yards against the Tigers. Minton had a strong first week against Russell County. He was 8-for-11 with 106 passing yards. Thornton was 19-for-20 in week two against Dothan.
Auburn held Enterprise to negative 13 rushing yards last Friday with a healthy dose of blitz packages. This is a strategy that we could see the Panthers implore tomorrow evening. Enterprise features a very young secondary that could be exposed by the deep pass, but Wildcats’ sophomore running back Josh McCrary is a threat on the ground. He has already received offers from the University of Tennessee, UAB and Troy University.
The Panthers were able to contain the Central ground game to just 37 first-half rushing yards and will look for similar results against the Wildcats.
One team will leave tomorrow’s game 0-2 in the region, with the other 1-1. This is your prototypical swing game. With Smiths Station’s most physical opponent potentially behind them, they travel to Enterprise tomorrow and will play Robert E. Lee (3-0, 1-0) in Week 4 before returning home to play Stanhope Elmore (2-1, 1-0) in a non-region game for Homecoming on September 28.
For playoff possibility, it is not a “must win” for both teams. However a win is one step in the right direction, while a loss could be two steps behind.