State bound?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It will be a rematch of the season opener Friday when Pike Liberal Arts travels to Selma to take on Morgan Academy in the semifinals of the AISA Class AAA playoffs.

The first game between the two schools was a thriller, with PLAS picking up a 13-6 win.

While the Patriots have had success against the Senators already this season, head coach Steven Kilcrease said this week’s game will be a different affair.

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“We know we’ve got to come ready to play,” Kilcrease said. “We’re seeing a much better football team than we did earlier, but I think we’re better, too.”

Kilcrease said the Senator offense has impressed him more recently, an offense that is led by quarterback Austin Smitherman.

“He’s running the ball really well,” Kilcrease said. “He’s tough to stop. They do a lot of things with him. He concerns me as much with his scrambling ability as anything else.”

Containing Smitherman’s athletic ability appears to be one of the keys to a Patriot win.

“Defensively, we’ve got to contain Smitherman,” Kilcrease said. “It’s that simple.”

Morgan has also improved defensively, something Kilcrease attributed to coaching.

“Defensively, they’re running pretty much the same defense, but they’re better,” Kilcrease said. “The coaches over there have done a good job of getting them better and getting the players to buy into the system. You can really tell, too.”

PLAS has looked at the film from the teams’ first meeting, and has seen the mistakes it will need to correct in order to be successful. “We didn’t block well at all,” Kilcrease said. “We turned the ball over a lot, we had a lot of penalties and we didn’t tackle well. Those things are things we’ve gotten better at. We work on that every single week. It’s just the same things we’ve worked on all year.”

The Patriots are also looking to limit their mistakes offensively and be careful with the football.

“Offensively, we’ve got to know our assignments, stay on our blocks, and not turn the ball over,” Kilcrease said. “It sounds simple, but that’s what we’ve got to do.”

One thing that should help the Patriots is the week of practice they have had. Kilcrease said he has been pleased so far with the effort level of the team in preparations for Friday’s game.

“We’ve had a really good week,” Kilcrease said. “We were in the gym Tuesday, but to be in the gym, it was not bad. Wednesday, we had a really upbeat practice. The kids are having fun and they’re getting after it. They know what’s at stake because most of them have been through it before.”

Pike Liberal Arts and Morgan Academy will clash Friday night at 7 p.m. in Selma, with the winner advancing to the AISA Class AAA state championship game Nov. 20 in Troy.