The North Sand Mountain football program has been a history maker over the past year.
The 2019 Bison reaches the Class 2A State quarterfinals, going where no other NSM team had gone before.
The 2020 Bison has continued the making history theme, posting the best start in school history by winning their first six games and running their win streak against arch rival Pisgah to four for the first time. Even head coach Keith Kirby got in the action, becoming NSM’s all-time winningest coach — he’s 38-16 in five seasons at his alma mater — with last week’s 44-13 win over Whitesburg Christian.
With all that’s been achieved, the chance to make more history remains.
On Friday, No. 9-ranked NSM (7-1, 5-0) hosts No. 8 Falkville (8-0, 5-0) in what has turned out to be the de facto Class 2A Region 7 championship game.
With a win, NSM would claim its first region championship.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to play for a region championship,” Kirby said. “It’s been a crazy year, you never know what’s going to happen. We’re happy to be playing, so playing for a region championship is big. That’s one of the goals you set and work for. Big moment and big opportunity.”
Kickoff for the first meeting between the teams is set for Friday at 7 p.m. at Lloyd Dobbins Field in Higdon.
The winner of the game is the Region 7 champion and will host the Region 6 No. 4-seed, Southeastern, in the opening round of the Class 2A playoffs on Nov. 6. The loser will be the Region 7 No. 2-seed and host the Region 6 No. 3-seed, Cleveland, in the first round.
NSM hopes to get its senior quarterback back for the matchup. The Bison played without senior quarterback Lake Bell last week after Bell was injured in a Week 7 loss to Class 3A No. 1-ranked Fyffe. Kirby said Bell would be evaluated throughout the week to determine his status for Friday’s game. Bell dressed out last week but did not play in the Bison’s 44-13 win over Whitesburg Christian. Junior receiver Derek Bearden took the snaps in Bell’s place, accounting for 113 passing yards, 43 rushing yards and three to touchdowns (two rushing and one passing) in two quarters of work — NSM rested its starters after building a 42-6 halftime lead.
Falkville’s starters have rarely played meaningful second-half minutes this season. The senior-laden Blue Devils, who moved up from Class 1A this season, have outscored their opponents 350-27 while having posted five shut-out wins in the seven on-field games it has played (Falkville received a COVID-19 related forfeit win over Decatur Heritage in Week 0). Pisgah and Cold Springs are the only teams that have scored on the Blue Devils, who have shutout Section, Tanner and Ider the past three weeks.
Senior running back Christian Angulo has rushed for 922 yards and 19 touchdowns on 81 carries while Jordan Greenfield has rushed for 458 yards and six touchdowns on 37 carries. Quarterback Peyton Sallee, who starts on the defensive line on defense, is 50-of-84 passing for 814 yards and 15 touchdowns. Andrew Jones lead the receiving corps with 20 catches for 383 yards and six touchdowns while Mikell Philyaw had 16 catches for 216 yards and three scores and Wyatt King has 13 catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
“I feel like they play the numbers game (with opponents),” Kirby said. “They’re really good at running the ball, and they can throw the screen game and other things to slow you down (defensively). They’ve got a lot of good skill guys and are real big up front. It’s important for us to be disciplined and play well at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.”
Defensively, Philyaw leads the Blue Devils with 51 tackles while Luke Fitzgerald has 49, including four quarterback sacks, and Angulo has 38 tackles and a team-high five interceptions. In all, the Blue Devils have forced 19 turnovers while committing only five.
“They’re solid, well-coached, not many, if any weaknesses and they’re good at what they do,” Kirby said. “They’ve given up I think just 27 points all year, which unreal. We’ll have to bring our ‘A’ game and have a good week of prep.”