Friday night the 2020 Section football team will do something that no SHS team has done in more than a decade.
Section (5-5) will take the field for a state playoff game, making the program’s first playoff appearance in 13 years, when it travels to Rainbow City to take on Westbrook Christian in opening round of the Class 2A playoffs.
“Making the playoffs was our goal,” said second-year Section head coach Chris Hammon. “We accomplished that and that’s exciting.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Westbrook Christian’s Jack Osborn Stadium. 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.
It’s Section’s first playoff appearance since 2007 and 14th overall.
The Lions’ first-round opponent has been a frequent region foe of Section’s over the past 15 seasons. Friday’s game is the 11th meeting between the schools and the first playoff meeting. Westbrook Christian has won the last eight meetings and leads the series 8-2.
The Section-Westbrook Christian winner plays the Mars Hill Bible-Lamar County winner in the second round. If Section advances, it would host a second-round game regardless of the opponent.
Westbrook Christian (9-1) is the No. 2-seed from Class 2A Region 6, its only loss this season coming to No. 4-ranked Spring Garden 14-8 back on Oct. 9. The Warriors have wins over Coosa Christian 49-14, Sand Rock 21-14, Southeastern 24-14, Locust Fork 50-14, Randolph 21-14, West End 44-13, Cleveland 3-0, Gaston by COVID-19 forfeit and Donoho 34-0.
Westbrook Christian is averaging 25.5 points per game while allowing only 9.7. Key players for the Warriors, who reached the second round of the 2019 playoffs before losing at North Sand Mountain last season, are quarterback Will Noles, running backs Karmichael Cattling, Asher Keck and Jesse Kantzler and wide receiver Ryan Scott. Noles is the son of head coach Drew Noles.
“They’re pretty balanced running and throwing,” Hammon said. “They’re really big up front, got real good size, on both lines. Offensively they run the spread and the I-Formation. They’ve got a good tailback, good quarterback. Defensively, they’re 4-3 and 3-4 (defensive fronts) team. Their size makes it hard to run on. We’ve got to go compete and play hard and see what we can do.”
The Lions played last week without leading rusher Drake McCutchen and leading tackler Ethan Franks, who was injured during pre-game warm ups before Section’s 34-28 loss at Woodville. Hammon said both players are questionable for Friday’s game.
Hammon said the Lions are excited to be in the playoffs and hope to make this a standard event for the pr0gram going forward.
“We’ve started something hopefully and would like to make it an every year thing,” Hammon said.