As the North Sand Mountain football team starts the Class 2A playoffs this week, head coach Keith Kirby said the Bison have been in postseason mode the past two weeks.
The Bison edged previously undefeated Falkville 12-7 on Oct. 23 to win the Class 2A Region 7 championship before closing the regular-season last week with a 24-19 double-overtime victory over Sylvania.
“These last two have felt like (playoff games) for sure,” Kirby said. “Two close games and the kids found a way to win. That should do nothing but help us.”
No. 6-ranked NSM (9-1), the Class 2A Region 7 champion, officially starts the postseason Friday when it hosts Region 6 No. 4-seed Southeastern Friday at 7 p.m. at Lloyd Dobbins Field in Higdon. Because of COVID-19 precautions, the Alabama High School Athletic Association has limited attendance to 33 percent of stadium capacity and all tickets must be purchased online on the Go Fan app.
NSM is making its sixth straight playoff appearance, the longest such streak among Jackson County teams, and its 11th overall. The Bison have made the playoffs every season but once since 2011. NSM made the Class 2A state quarterfinals a year ago.
Southeastern (6-4), which is located in the Remlap community in southern Blount County, is the No. 4-seed from Region 6.
It’s the first meeting between the teams.
The NSM-Southeastern winner plays the Addison-Colbert County winner in the second round. If it wins Friday, NSM would host Addison but would travel to Leighton to play Colbert County.
Southeastern, making its second straight playoff appearance, enters the playoffs after having forfeited its last two games to 2A No. 4 Spring Garden and Appalachian because of COVID-19. The Mustangs’ six wins are a record for the school, which started its varsity football program 2012. Southeastern’s wins came against Ashville 21-13, Gaston 59-0, Sand Rock 20-7, Oak Grove 30-6, Locust Fork 28-21 and West End 31-28 while its on-field losses were to Westbrook Christian 24-14 and Cleveland 42-20.
Southeastern has used the Spread and Wing-T offenses this season, averaging 27.9 points per game over its first eight games. For the season, quarterback Trent Carpenter is 45-of-94 passing for 737 yards and nine touchdowns while also leading the Mustangs in rushing with 591 yards and three touchdowns on 80 carries. Running back Noah McCrary has rushed for 572 yards and five touchdowns on 82 carries while Brody Dobbins is Southeastern’s leading receiver with 17 catches for 412 yards and four touchdowns.
Defensively, Southeastern allowed 17.6 per game through its first game eight games. Justin Pendleton leads the Mustangs’ defense with 62 tackles, including two for a loss.
Kirby said Southeastern isn’t the typical No. 4-seed.
“They’re way better than I hoped they’d be,” Kirby said. “They’ve got a lot of good-looking players. They’re capable (of running both offenses) well. They haven’t played in a few weeks, so they may have been working on something else. They may have been working on us for two weeks. We’ve got to come out and play well. We’ve got to clean some things up.”
NSM, whose lone loss to was Class 3A No. 1 Fyffe, enters the matchup averaging 31.8 points per game and allowing 15.4.
With a win against Southeastern, NSM would set a new school single-season school record for wins.
“Records have been falling up here all year,” Kirby said. “Hopefully we can get it done.”