Scottsboro head coach Don Jacobs is certain there were more than a few “what nows” after his team suffered a lopsided season-opening loss at Fort Payne.
But fortunately for him and his players, none of them came from inside the team. And now the Wildcats are peaking at the right time — the postseason — as Scottsboro (8-2) hosts Russellville (8-2) in a Class 5A first-round playoff game Friday night at Trammell Stadium.
“It’s a compliment to these guys for the way they bounced back after (the) Fort Payne (game),” said Jacobs, who has taken three different teams to the playoffs and holds a 17-8 playoff record with one state title and two state runner-up finishes. “They’ve gotten better every week. We’re not flashy, but we’re doing what we need to do to win ballgames.”
Friday’s game is just the second all-time meeting between the Scottsboro, the Class 5A Region 8 No. 2-seed, and Russellville, the Region 7 No. 3-seed. The first meeting was also a playoff game, a 48-14 Russellville victory in the second round of the 2003 Class 5A playoffs.
The Scottsboro-Russellville winner plays either No. 5-ranked Etowah or Center Point in the second round. If it advances, Scottsboro would have to travel in the second round regardless of which team it plays.
Scottsboro has won four straight games since a Week 6 hiccup at Madison County, including two straight defensive gems against region foe Brewer and 6A Hartselle in which the defense allowed just one first down and seven points.
“That’s pretty sporty defense right there,” Jacobs said. “When the teams you’re playing against run 28 and 23 (offensive) plays, that’s got to be really frustrating for them. Defense is a big key in the playoffs. We need to keep it up.”
Russellville works offensively from the spread but also uses a two-back set, which they’ve run more during their two-game winning streak to end the regular season that followed their only two setbacks, shut-out losses of 17-0 to Hamilton and 31-0 to top-ranked Jasper (formerly Walker) in region play.
“They’re real similar to a lot of teams we’ve played, but with some differences,” Jacobs said. “We worked on the differences (in practice) Monday (and) worked on the similarities and some of the differences on Tuesday.”
Russellville is a tradition-rich program with a culture similar to Hartselle, Jacobs said, meaning the Wildcats know they’ll need a four-quarter effort to advance.
“They’re used to being the playoff and winning,” Jacobs said of Russellville. “They grew up winning, and their kinfolk grew up winning. They just have a good culture with their program.”
Jacobs said Scottsboro players need to keep cooking with the recipe that got them here.
“We are who we are,” he said. “We’ve got to keep playing good defense, be sound in the kicking game, keep playing well up front and not screw things up on offense. It’s the same formula we’ve used since after (the) Madison County (game).”