Daily photo by Brennen Smith|
Falkville's Brandon Clark, left, and Chase Winkles battle in a Blue Devils practice in Falkville last week.
HIGH SCHOOL COUNTDOWN
Making playoffs not enough
Falkville wants more than an appearance in Class 2A postseason
Twenty-third and last in a series
By Brooke Milam
email@example.com · 340-2460
FALKVILLE — There was a time when Falkville High's football team wanted simply to make the state playoffs.
Actually winning a postseason game didn't play much into the Blue Devils' thinking.
But times have changed. After two straight trips to the Class 2A postseason and getting booted in the first round both times, just making the playoffs is no longer enough.
"We're not losing in the first round this season, I promise you that," junior quarterback Jonathan McNatt said. "It's a done deal."
Confident words, but McNatt is a confident player. And that's exactly the kind of leader that the Blue Devils need directing their offense.
McNatt, who threw for 1,267 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, has started since his freshman year, and he's not the only weapon returning for Falkville's offense.
The Blue Devils also return running backs Shane Ellis and Dustin Jump, who each rushed for 500 yards last season. Leading receiver Steven Lindsey is back for his senior season after catching 40 passes for 575 yards and seven touchdowns last year.
Senior Brandon Clark has moved from running back to tight end this season, and junior Cody Smith, a 6-foot-1, 196-pound center, will anchor the offensive line.
"Definitely, we're going to be able to run pretty well," Falkville's third-year coach Neil Estes said.
“Our defense is looking pretty good and winning the majority of the battles right now.”
Clark is back at middle linebacker for the Blue Devils.
Dustin Reeves will provide senior leadership at defensive end, while Estes also lends responsibility to several young players on the defensive line. Sophomores Justin Baldwin, Blake Wilhite and Cody Kelsoe will factor into Falkville’s defensive plan — Baldwin, at nose guard, while Wilhite and Kelsoe will both put in time at defensive end.
Players agree that with several reasons for Falkville’s offense to be confident, its defense looks able to match the offense’s performance.
“If our offense can pull it out, our defense can pull it out,” Clark said.
Glad that his players are so ambitious, Estes said there’s a clear formula for the Blue Devils to give themselves a chance to advance. “To move on, we really need to host a playoff game, and to do that, we have to finish first or second in our region,” Estes said.
The Blue Devils traveled in the first round of the playoffs the past two seasons, losing on the road at Addison 28-15 last year and at Lexington 56-20 in 2005.
And even though they finished fourth in the 2A, Region 5 standings last season, the Blue Devils were one touchdown away from beating region champion Vincent.
Falkville fell at Vincent 20-14, losing with about three seconds left in the game.
“We weren’t that far away,” Estes said. “We dominated them for the first half.”
This year, Falkville will host Vincent for homecoming Oct. 19.
The rematch with Vincent comes in the middle of an important stretch of region games in the second half of the season, hosting J.B. Pennington on Oct. 5 before traveling to Victory Christian, and hosting Vincent and Cleveland.
Falkville’s one-word theme this season is “Commitment.”
“Commitment to the weight room and each other,” Jump said.
“It’s a lot easier now. Before, when we weren’t winning, nobody wanted to do anything. We look forward to it now.”
That’s not the only thing that’s changed around Falkville. Players say recent success has given the program a new pride.
“Kids come up to me from the elementary school and say, ‘Hey, you play football for Falkville, don’t you?’ ” Lindsey said.
Added Clark: “It’s cool to see them look up to us.”
But now the program has raised the bar.
“After our first playoff game, everybody wanted to go a lot further,” Clark said. “Now we want to keep going.”
Falkville High schedule, results
8-30 at Danville
9-7 at Westbrook Christian (R)
9-14 Fultondale (R)
9-21 at Cold Springs (R)
10-5 J. B. Pennington (R)
10-12 at Victory Christian (R)
10-19 Vincent (R)
10-26 Cleveland (R)
11-2 at Priceville
(R)-Class 2A, Region 5
vs. Danville W, 13-12
vs. Westbrook Chr. L, 31-25
at Fultondale W, 19-0
vs. Cold Springs W, 40-22
at Vinemont L, 33-6
at J. B. Pennington L, 27-3
vs. Victory Christian W, 33-12
at Vincent L, 20-14
at Cleveland W, 20-12
vs. Priceville L, 20-13
at Addison L, 28-15
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!