Devils headed back to Linden with even more on the line

Published 4:23 pm Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Red Devils football team ate dinner with the Maplesville community Thursday evening, and a pep rally is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

The squad should enjoy their warm send-off because the reception in Linden on Friday evening will certainly be chilly.

Maplesville and Linden will meet at 7 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals of the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs—a year after the teams played an eventful game at the same location. Maplesville’s quarterback was injured in that game, and multiple MHS fans in attendance were arrested.

This contest would be epic even without the history. Maplesville is unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in Class 1A. No. 3 Linden has lost only to fourth-ranked local rival Sweet Water, and a home win would possibly give them another shot at Sweet Water.

Most of the participants in last year’s contest, a 23-14 Linden victory, return for this year’s clash. Maplesville, in fact, lost only one senior to graduation following the 2009 season.

“They’re like us, they’re a year older—they’re a veteran team,” MHS coach Brent Hubbert said.

Hubbert described Linden as a physical team on offense and fast on defense.

“They’re cheating, playing 15 guys,” he joked. “They’re everywhere—great team speed.”

Maplesville hopes an improved offensive line can make a difference in the game. Hubbert said the front has done a better job this year of opening up running lanes.

A look at the season statistics make it difficult to disagree: Leading rusher Hunter McCay, a senior, has averaged more than 13 yards per carry, tops for any runner on a local team.

The Maplesville defense has been as effective stopping the run as the offense has been running the ball. And the Red Devils (13-0) defense features three players with at least six sacks on the season—junior Keith Shields, junior Brett Connell and senior James Madsen—and three more players—senior Edwin Pettiway, senior Tyler Crumpton and sophomore Anthony Johnson—with at least three interceptions.

But more important than all that is that Maplesville is motivated.
“This team is hungry,” Hubbert said.

Who will win?

The environment—and the opposing team—will undoubtedly be the most difficult Maplesville has faced all season. Unlike last year, though, one gets the impression from being around the team that this year it is welcoming the challenge. The Red Devils see this as their opportunity to prove they’re one of the best teams in the state—though they’ve been ranked in the top 5 all season and in the top spot since the end of October. Look for the Maplesville offense to scrap together some points and for the defense to make a crucial stop at the end of the game.

Pick: Maplesville | Picks record: 50-12