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Bulldogs prepare for final tune up before playoffs

If the Class 2A Elba High School Tigers were hoping to catch Pike County High School looking ahead to their first-round playoff game with Clarke County High School, the Tigers' luck has run out.

The Bulldogs are intent on getting the most out of Friday night's showdown with Elba in hopes of continuing to improve heading into the playoffs and their defense of last season's Class 3A crown.

"We addressed the possibility of a letdown with our players," Pike County High School head football coach Wayne Grant said. "With the game not being a region game, we were a little concerned that the players might overlook it, but after talking with them I don't see that as being a problem. They know what is at stake. We need to use this game to get better. We can't afford not to heading into the playoffs."

The Bulldogs, who have secured the No. 3 seed in Class 3A, Region 1, have a chance to test themselves against a quality Elba squad before heading into the postseason. An opportunity Grant feels can only help his team.

"Obviously our No. 1 objective is to win the game," Grant said. "That is first on our list, but we do want to use this game to make sure that we continue to improve. I believe it is real important for us to continue to get better week in and week out. We're getting to the point of the season where a loss ends your year, so we have to be playing our best

ball."

Grant doesn't believe that the Bulldogs have put forth their best effort this season - something that the Bulldogs' coach views as a positive.

"I don't think we have reached our full potential for the season, yet," Grant said. "I don't think you want to have played your best game at this point. We'd like to be playing our best ball a couple of weeks down the road. Ideally, you would play your best game in the last game of the season. So, I don't want this game to be our best game either, but we need to make sure we play well and use it to improve."

One area the Bulldogs don't need much improvement in is their ground game.

Pike County has a dangerous rushing attack that is led by a trio of strong running backs, including junior Jarmon Barrow, sophomore James Jackson and freshman Darrell Reynolds. Quarterbacks Alonzo Foster and Fred Caffie are also capable runners.

"We knew early in the year that our success would depend on our ability to run the ball," Grant said.

"We have emphasized the run all season, and we will again on Friday night. We will look to really run the football and will throw occasionally. We're fortunate to have a good group of backs, and honestly we don't really lose anything when we take one out and put another in. It's a huge benefit for us because we don't have to run a guy six or seven times in a row. We can put fresh legs in there and maybe take advantage of a defense that might be a little worn down."

That's bad news for the Tigers.

"We'll continue to work on the running game," Grant said. "We have had some success running the ball, but we still have room to improve and playing a team like Elba that has good team speed will give us a chance to really work on it and hopefully improve heading into the playoffs."

The game is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium.