FOOTBALL GAME OF THE WEEK: Devils get monkey off their backs

Published 3:19 pm Wednesday, October 2, 2013

For a game that likely will have no bearing on playoff positioning, it’s hard to imagine a football team and its fans being more excited than Maplesville was after its 27-24 win over Sweet Water last week.

MHS had lost to the Bulldogs in four consecutive tries, with two of those losses coming in the semifinals of the state playoffs in what might have been de facto state championship games (Sweet Water went on to win titles both times).

However the rest of the season plays out, this year’s Maplesville team can take pride in the fact it was able to accomplish what other talented teams before it couldn’t do: defeat Sweet Water, a perennial powerhouse.

The Red Devils climbed the mountain first by running the football effectively to set up the pass. After a second-half lull that allowed the visitors to take the lead, Maplesville dug deep to pull out a dramatic come-from-behind win.

“Normally against Sweet Water, we’re not able to run it,” MHS coach Brent Hubbert said. “If you can’t run it, they know you’re going to pass.”

Maplesville’s offensive line adjusted on the fly to what Sweet Water’s defensive front was doing, changing an angle or a step or even an assignment to give the offense a chance to move the football, Hubbert said.

Also, quarterback Colby Chambers was sent to the line of scrimmage before each snap with the option to pick one of two or three plays, depending on what the defense was showing.

The execution of the line and signal-caller helped Damian Mitchell rush for 180 yards on 19 carries.

Then, as a result of the Sweet Water defense having to commit more players to stopping the run, Chambers was able to complete 15 passes in 23 attempts for 215 yards and two touchdowns.

Though the Red Devils held a 21-0 lead at halftime, Hubbert cautioned his team about maintaining its focus and effort in the second half.

“We told them at halftime, ‘Sweet Water didn’t win five state championships in nine years by going in at halftime and quitting,” Hubbert said.

And the Bulldogs didn’t quit, slowing down Maplesville’s offense in the second half and scoring three touchdowns over a 6-minute time period of the fourth quarter to take a 24-21 lead.

“They made some adjustments that were giving us some problems,” Hubbert said. “Football is like a chess match, and we were having a tough time making our next move.”

Maplesville took possession of the football at its own 35-yard line with 1:31 remaining in the game. It appeared to be the Devils’ last chance, and given the offense’s performance through much of the second half, it didn’t seem to be a good chance.

But the Devils drove down the field thanks to Chambers completing all three of his pass attempts and Mitchell running twice, including the game-winning score from about 15 yards out.

Hubbert said the comeback showed the team’s resiliency.

“It speaks a lot about their character and the things we see about them on a day-to-day basis,” he said.