Daily photo by Brennen Smith|
Priceville's Zach Heflin, left, and Andrew Starkey go through a drill under the eye of assistant coach Dale Taylor.
HIGH SCHOOL COUNTDOWN
Ready to bite postseason pie
After falling short of playoffs a year ago, Priceville aims to get over the hump
By Ross Dellenger
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2462
PRICEVILLE — Priceville coach Donald Weeks sat in his office chair, recounting the night his Bulldogs came within 3 yards of making history.
"It was a long ride home that night," he said, "because we knew after that game there was no playoffs."
A failed 2-point conversion attempt led to a 7-6 loss to Ardmore, costing Priceville a spot in the Class 4A state playoffs last season.
It would have been the first postseason appearance in the history of the varsity program, which is heading into its sixth season.
"We were deflated," said Weeks, who didn't know the playoff implications until after the game was over. "Seniors knew they had two games left and that was it."
Priceville went on to win its last two games.
But that was a consolation prize. The damage had been done.The Bulldogs were left out of the playoffs, finishing fifth in the region standings.
Now, more than nine months later, 11 starters return from that 6-4 squad with the same exact dream: to make history by qualifying for the playoffs.
"That's pushed me to get stronger," said senior linebacker Will Halbrooks, who clearly remembers that fullback sweep falling short of the goal line. "It seems if we would have done one more rep of bench and one more rep of squat, we would have got it."
Halbrooks is one of 18 seniors on a team that is loaded with experience. Coaches say Halbrooks could play at a small college as a tight end, his offensive position on the team.
But it's on defense where he benefits the Bulldogs. He had 89 tackles last year and has set a goal of 125 for this season.
As tight end, Halbrooks is one of five seniors on the offensive line. Chase Martin and 260-pound Johnathan Hopkins have started since their sophomore seasons on the line. They are joined by senior lineman Brad Clark, who is in his second year starting, and by another senior, Josh Matthews.
The one position on offense that lacks experience is maybe the most important: quarterback. The Bulldogs have to replace Will Stevens, who has graduated.
Junior Jeremy Hale and senior Logan Manthey are taking equal snaps for now, Weeks said. He described the quarterback position as "unsettled."
"There is no clear cut on who will be the best to lead us," said Weeks, who served as an assistant for three seasons before becoming the Bulldogs' head coach last year. "Both of them will take snaps. How many each will take is still undecided."
Good luck keeping track of the ball carriers during a Priceville game. Five players will rotate at the three back positions — quarterback, tailback and fullback.
Hale and Mathney, whoever is not playing quarterback on that given play, will be the team's fullback, rotating with senior Jayson Hamilton. But Hamilton will also play tailback, rotating with returning starting senior Eli Allen and junior Kody Ethridge.
Those five players — Hale, Manthey, Hamilton, Allen and Ethridge — will be the offense's nucleus.
Two more seniors — Kyle Bunnell and Aaron Sawyer — will rotate at wing back, the uncommon position that's required in the Wing-T.
In all, there are 10 seniors on offense who could start, and most of them play both ways.
"Knowing its their last chance to make the playoffs, hopefully, they will lead the team in the right direction and get us over the hump this year," Weeks said.
And to get over that hump, Weeks may do things differently next time.
He doesn't regret his decision to go for the win instead of kicking an extra point to tie Ardmore, saying, "You're on the road, you go for the win — that's what the book says."
But he wishes he had called a different play.
With Ardmore's safeties loading the line of scrimmage, the fullback sweep that had been so successful throughout the game didn't come close to working.
"Those safeties weren't playing 12 yards back because we were on the 3-yard-line," Weeks said, smiling about it now.
"They were playing like linebackers."
Priceville High at a glance
Last year: 6-4. Did not make the state playoffs.
Head coach: Donald Weeks (6-4 in his second year at Priceville).
Noteworthy: The Bulldogs try to make it to the postseason for the first time in the program’s six-year history with 18 seniors and 11 returning starters. They missed last year by one loss. ... Four seniors start on the offensive line, two of whom started in their sophomore seasons. ... Junior Jeremy Hale and senior Logan Manthey are battling for the starting quarterback job. The two also play fullback in Weeks’ Wing-T offense.
Priceville High schedule, results
8-31 at Brewer
9-7 at East Limestone (R)
9-13 at Columbia (R)
9-21 North Jackson (R)
10-5 DAR (R)
10-12 at Madison County (R)
10-19 Ardmore (R)
10-26 at East Lawrence (R)
(R)-Class 4A, Region 7
vs. Brewer W, 27-20
vs. East Limestone L, 35-21
vs. Columbia W, 20-14
at North Jackson L, 35-0
at Danville W, 31-7
at DAR W, 34-8
vs. Madison County L, 41-14
at Ardmore L, 7-6
vs.East Lawrence W, 21-14
at Falkville W, 20-13
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!