Banged-up Pats meet high-powered Fort Dale Friday

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, October 10, 2013

On most days Pike Liberal Arts head coach Gene Allen makes the 92-mile round trip from his home in Greenville to work and back one time. However on Friday, Allen will make the trip twice, as his Patriots travel to Greenville to face Fort Dale Friday night.

The game will serve as a sort of quasi-homecoming for Allen. He led his alma mater, Greenville High School, to back-to-back appearances in the Alabama High School Athletic Association state title game in 1993 and 1994. The Tigers brought home the trophy in 1994.

Allen said that it will be “pretty neat” to coach in front of the hometown fans once again.

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“I’m sure we will see a bunch of familiar faces over there Friday night,” Allen said. “We had a lot of good years over there back a little while ago. But it is a new thing now, and I have to get my guys ready to play a good football team.”

Pike Liberal has been decimated by injuries over the past few weeks, and could have as few as 15 players in uniform Friday night. The Patriots lost quarterback Rush Hixon to a torn labrum two weeks ago, and also could be without the services of wide receiver Marquese Christian this week due to a lingering back injury.

To compound matters even more, Allen said several of his 15 “able bodies” are banged up with broken fingers or other injuries.

“We are beat up pretty good,” Allen said. “We have had to make some major changes in what we want to do, and that has taken some time to get used to. We are working both Drew (Starling) and Brian (Adams) at quarterback, and have had to make a bunch of changes to the skill positions out wide.”

However, Allen and his weary, wounded Patriots will play on. Awaiting the team in Greenville will be James “Speed” Sampley and the No. 8-ranked Ft. Dale Eagles.

Fort Dale has rolled through most of its competition this season, averaging 43 points a game. But Allen does see a small chink in the Eagles’ armor. Fort Dale is also allowing over 39 points a game on average.

“They score a lot of points, but they also give up a lot too,” Allen said. “They are a really, really good football team, but they can be beat. Chip Taylor (Fort Dale running back) is one of the best football players in the state, and he makes that offense go. But they have some really good players outside of him. We have to concentrate on sustaining drives, and keeping that offense off the field.”

Fort Dale and Pike Liberal have played 15 times in the past, with the Eagles holding a solid 11-4 lead on the Pats all time. Fort Dale has won four straight games against Pike.

The Patriots last win against Fort Dale came in the 2008 AISA AAA title game, a 20-17 victory at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy.

“Yeah, we are beat up,” Allen said. “But we aren’t going to make any excuses. We are going to strap up and play football. It sure would be nice to make that ride back home early Saturday morning with a W in my back pocket.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Fort Dale Stadium in Greenville.