Pike Liberal Arts defeated Bessemer Academy 23-16 in a key AISA battle back on Oct. 16.
Friday, those two teams will square off once again in Troy, only this time the game will take place at Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium and the winner will be the AISA Class AAA state champion.
One of the keys to the game will be the Patriots’ ability to adjust to the multiple defensive alignments Bessemer will show.
“We’re trying to simplify things,” said PLAS head coach Steven Kilcrease. “Our guys have got to be prepared. They showed us a lot of different looks on defense the last time we played them, and we’ve got to be ready for all of them. We’ve spent a lot of time doing that in preparation for those looks.”
Kilcrease said the Rebels have the ability on defense to confuse opponents with their alignments.
“We’re simplifying things because we don’t want to get out there and be confused,” Kilcrease said. “We spend time on each look, and then we swap it up and prepare for another.”
Bessemer will line up in a traditional 5-2 Cover 2, a 5-3 and a 6-5, and will also shift tackles or defensive backs to one side or the other.
“They’re good in all their looks,” Kilcrease said. “It’s really not that different. They’re just sliding people form place to place.”
The Rebels have given 14.5 points per game on defense, but Kilcrease said they have shown improvement from week to week.]
“They’ve gotten a lot better defensively as the year has gone on,” Kilcrease said. “I thought the last time we played them, and their coach mentioned it too, that was the best defensive game they’ve played. They’ve gotten better every week defensively since then.”
One of the major steps in preparing for a defense such as Bessemer is film study, something the Patriots have spent plenty of time doing this week. While PLAS has looked at the film from the two teams’ previous battle, it is not the only piece of film it has focused on.
“We look at it, but they’ve played four games since then,” Kilcrease said. “We pay a lot of attention to that, as far as different looks other teams have showed them and how they’ve adjusted to it. Of course, we look at how we lined up and how they adjusted to us to try and see if there are any advantages there. They did a good job against us last time.” For PLAS, the key to having success against the Rebel defense is a solid running game, much as it has been all season for the Patriots. “We’ve got to be able to run the football. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out,” Kilcrease said. However, the Patriots must also strike a balance offensively even though the run game will be used to set up the passing game.
“We’ve got to be able to get in that shotgun and throw it and also be able to throw play action stuff from under center,” Kilcrease said. “Everything feeds off of us running the football.”
PLAS and Bessemer battle for the state title Friday at 1 p.m.