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Purple Cats host R.C. Hatch

The Ariton Purple Cats are set to host the R.C. Hatch Bobcats in the opening round of the Alabama State Class 2A playoffs on Friday night.

Fresh off their region championship, the Purple Cats (9-1) will host their first playoff game since 2006.

“We are excited,” said head coach Steven Kilcrease. “It’s what we have been working for all year and all summer. We are ready for it to get here so we can strap it on Friday night. We had a good week of practice. Guys seemed locked in on what we are trying to do.”

Kilcrease, now in his second season at the helm, set a goal of winning a region championship as early as spring this season. The Purple Cats finished with a perfect 6-0 record in the region to accomplish that goal. Now, it’s all about taking things one game at a time.

“We want to play and advance,” Kilcrease said. “Obviously we have goals. Why not us? We are going to work towards that. One game at a time is sort of our motto right now. We are R.C. Hatch and R.C. Hatch only. We are more worried about getting a win than we are about who we play next week.”

The Purple Cats fell against Goshen in week two this season. Kilcrease believes that loss sparked Ariton and helped them finished the rest of the season 8-0.

“I felt really good after that game,” Kilcrease said. “We learned a lot about ourselves that night. It was a wake up call to our players that nothing is going to come easy. We need to work and get better. I can honestly say, especially up front on offense, we got better every week.”

Ariton went six years, 2008 to 2014 without a playoff appearance. Since then, the Purple Cats have clinched a berth in the playoffs in three consecutive seasons.

“We have a lot of young talent,” Kilcrease said. “We are going to lose some good seniors this year. I think we have a good group coming back next year. Our junior varsity guys had a good year and our recreation department had a good year. I think the future is bright around here.”

The Purple Cats draw R.C. Hatch in the opening round of the playoffs. The Bobcats enter the postseason with a sub .500 record of 4-6. They closed out the regular season with a modest two-game winning streak. Before that, however, they were on a five-game losing streak.

Kilcrease said the team has some strengths to look out for though.

“They are really big up front on both sides of the football,” Kilcrease said “Offensively, they have a double-T look most of the time. They have a really athletic quarterback. They have two athletic running backs and they do a good job at getting behind those guys. They are big; a lot bigger than anyone we have played this year.”

First year defensive coordinator Chuck Dunn has always preached running to the football on defense. That has helped the Purple Cats be plus-27 in the turnover margin in the last six games.

“Coach Dunn has them believing,” Kilcrease said. “If it’s one turnover, two turnovers or three turnovers, everyone’s hands are up and they are counting them out. They have goals and lately they have been reaching those goals.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Ariton.