Red Devils’ leadership develops at just the right time

Published 4:35 pm Thursday, November 6, 2014

Looking back to the beginning of the season, Maplesville coach Brent Hubbert knew something had to happen if this year’s group of Red Devils was going to reach its full potential.

A year after several important seniors graduated, a new group of leaders had to emerge.

These players needed to do more than lead by example, Hubbert said, though there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Hubbert said there’s no one on the team not willing to do what’s necessary to play to a championship level.

“Everybody on the team works hard,” Hubbert said. “All 42 of them work their tails off.”

But there needed to be some players who were willing to lead vocally as well as through example.

Such leadership is especially important once a team climbs the mountain into rarefied air. In the later rounds of the state playoffs, blowouts are replaced by close games that could go either way, and outmatched opponents are replaced by squads who, when punched, know how to punch back and believe that they will win.

Maplesville’s journey begins with this week’s first-round playoff game against Millry (7-3), and Hubbert said he’s glad that several leaders have emerged on his team.

“We struggled early in the season finding leadership,” he said. “We’ve had guys, not just one or two but three or four on defense and several on offense, really step up, make plays and become leaders.”

Hubbert said non-region games against opponents such as Tanner and Sweet Water are scheduled to give the Devils an early taste of playoff-like football.

Though Maplesville (9-0) won both of those games comfortably (36-21 over Tanner and 42-14 over Sweet Water), they still were more challenging than the other regular season games, all but one of which MHS won by at least 53 points.

Hubbert said it’s often in difficult circumstances that leaders emerge.

“That’s why we schedule those games,” he said. “That’s where you find those kids.”

Maplesville seems to be playing at a high level heading into the playoffs.

Last week’s win over Sweet Water, a playoff team in Class 2A, was dominant, as the Devils allowed less than 100 yards of total offense to the visitors while rolling up more than 400 yards themselves.

“Our defense played lights-out, and our offensive line blocked as good as we’ve blocked in a few years,” Hubbert said.

The progress of the offensive line, which returned no starters from last season, has been crucial to Maplesville’s success.

“Every week, the offensive line has gotten better,” Hubbert said. “Actually, they’ve gotten better every day in practice.”

There have also been several other players on offense who have grown into important roles. Through 10 weeks of the season, junior quarterback Cole Spencer was second in the Chilton County area with an average of 136 passing yards per game, and sophomore running back Terrance Dunlap was second in the area with an average of 82 rushing yards per game.

The MHS offense this week will face a Millry defense that is tall and rangy. Millry’s offense, meanwhile, relies on a pair of 300-pound offensive linemen (Josh Gunn and Christion Jones) to pave the way for 195-pound running back Xavier Thornton.

The devastating ground attack helps make Millry possibly the best fourth-seed playoff team in the state’s 1A classification, Hubbert said.

The coach just hopes that a Maplesville team that continues to progress and strive toward its goals is up to the challenge.

Also this week

• Kinston (6-4) at Billingsley (7-2)

• Isabella (6-2) at McKenzie (8-1)

• Leroy (5-5) at Thorsby (7-3)

–All games begin at 7 p.m. unless noted otherwise