Red Devils, Bears are familiar foes meeting this time in playoffs

Published 6:51 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2013

When Maplesville last took the field for the playoffs, they were facing an in-county foe on the road.

The Red Devils took down Verbena in two straight games, advancing to the second round.

This week, while the team has changed, the concept has not: try to survive and advance on the road against a familiar rival.

The Devils (15-12) travel to Billingsley to take on the Bears (20-12) in a best-of-three series beginning at 4 p.m. on Friday.

Game 2 of the series will be played Friday after the first game, and a third game would be played at noon on Saturday, if necessary.

For both teams, it is an opportunity to take advantage of already knowing a playoff opponent, something that isn’t too common.

Maplesville coach Brandon Shanks said while previously playing an opponent can provide a sense of comfort, the sense of urgency that comes with the playoffs takes precedent.

“The regular season’s done,” he said. “I keep reminding [the team] they’re not guaranteed tomorrow. We take it one game at a time and understand the next game might be our last.”

The Bears won their area, which includes Maplesville, and Billingsley head coach Jason Mattox knows the Devils will be looking for revenge.

“The thing is, we won area, and that was huge, but that’s in the past,” he said. “Maplesville’s going to be hungry. We’ve got to get focused forward. We have to stay focused.”

The sense of familiarity assists both teams, with Maplesville traveling to a field they’ve played on before, and Billingsley staying at home against a team they know well.

“You look at what some teams travel, [this is] just like the regular season,” Shanks said. “We’ve been fortunate [with our] long travel dates.”

Mattox echoed the sentiment.

“It doesn’t matter where we play,” he said. “It’s nice to be our own field, but to be champions you have to win some tough games on the road.”

The similarities between the two teams are uncanny; from their style of play to their approach of the playoffs. Both coaches are convinced it will take a team effort, not just one person stepping up to provide the edge.

“We preach team,” said Shanks. “It’s going take all nine playing like we have. Everything goes back to fundamentals. The team that does the little things best will move on.”

Mattox said he was looking for a core group to step up.

“I feel like we have a good group of seniors,” he said. “This older group has carried us. I’m expecting them to play like it’s their last game [because] it could be. I think it’ll come down to errors, and the team able to play the cleanest ball in the field.”