North Sand Mountain head football coach Keith Kirby believes his team is playing its best football at the right time.
Which is a plus, he said, considering the quality of the Bison’s Class 2A first-round playoff opponent, No. 10-ranked Ranburne.
“Sometimes you might draw a team in that first round that’s not all that strong,” Kirby said. “This ain’t one of those times. It’s a tough challenge. I think we’ve been playing pretty good football. We’ve got to make sure we keep that up. If we play up to our potential, it could be a dandy [of a game].”
NSM (8-2) and Ranburne (8-2) face off Friday at 7 p.m. at Ranburne High School in Cleburne County in a Class 2A first-round playoff game.
It’s the first meeting between the teams.
NSM, the No. 3 seed from Class 2A Region 8, is in the playoffs for the fourth straight season and the seventh time in the past years. Prior to 2011, NSM had made the postseason only twice (1984 and 1998).
Ranburne is in the playoffs for the second straight season and fourth time in five years. The No. 2-seed from Region 6 — the Bulldogs finished second to No. 2 Ohatchee and also suffered a non-region loss to Wadley this season — is 5-0 at home this season.
Ranburne is averaging 30.7 points per game and allowing 15.1. The Bulldogs employ a run-heavy offense based out of both double-wing and spread formation sets. Running back Christian Smith leads the Ranburne offense in rushing while quarterback Josh Ralston is the Bulldogs’ second-leading rusher. Smith had 936 yards and 13 touchdowns on 10 carries (6.2 yards per carry) while Ralston has 471 yards and seven touchdowns on 84 carries. Ralston has also completed 59 of 86 passes for 991 yards and 12 touchdowns against only four interceptions. Smith is also Ranburne’s leading receiver with 24 catches for 356 yards and three touchdowns.
“They run a lot of option stuff. When you go against the option, you’ve got to be disciplined [defensively],” Kirby said. “We’ve got to have everybody doing their job and get 11 guys to the football.”
Meanwhile, NSM averaged a school-record 39.5 points per game during the regular season. Kirby said the Bison offense must “keep making plays when the opportunities are there.”
The NSM-Ranburne winner plays the Addison-Sulligent winner in the second round. If it advances, NSM would host Addison but would have to travel to Sulligent.
“We want to wake up Saturday still playing and get to practice next week,” Kirby said.