Billingsley, Maplesville on playoff collision course

Published 7:19 pm Thursday, November 20, 2014

The last two Chilton County area varsity football teams remaining in the state playoffs have an interesting history.

Should they both win on Friday, they would add to that history by playing each other in the fourth round of the Class 1A playoffs.

Billingsley High School and Maplesville High School are separated by about 20 miles. Though they are located in different counties (Autauga and Chilton, respectively), the teams have played each other every year for at least the past 40 or so years, according to the best available records, and the rivalry game may stretch back uninterrupted to the 1940s.

In several of those seasons, the teams played twice, once in the regular season and again in the playoffs, as could be the case this season.

Maplesville holds a 38-26 lead in the series, according to the best available records, including this season’s 54-0 victory.

Despite their similarities and familiarity, the two programs in recent history have been very different.

Maplesville has won 11 consecutive games in the series, and Billingsley hasn’t scored against Maplesville since 2008.

The last time the teams faced off in the playoffs, in 1997, marked a turning point.

Billingsley won that game, 6-0, in the third round of the state playoffs and went on to win the state championship. (Maplesville won the previous season’s championship.)

Maplesville won the next season’s game, 36-8, and Billingsley hadn’t been back to the third round of the playoffs until this season.

Billingsley coach Tyson McLean said it’s difficult for the players not to notice the excitement evident at the school and in the community.

“Everybody is upbeat about the things going on around here,” McLean said. “The players know that something is different. I don’t know if they know what’s different.”

McLean said it has been mentioned that this Billingsley team has reached a height not seen by the program since before some of the players were born, but coaches haven’t dwelled on that fact.

“We realize that this is not ‘97,” he said. “This is a completely different team. Just because that team went on to win the state championship is not going to help us. We’ve just got to go out and win on Friday night.”

The Bears’ opponent for Friday’s game at Billingsley’s Mims Field, Brantley (12-0 record this season), is no stranger to playoff success, having won four state championships, the last as recently as 2012.

Brantley and Maplesville are two of the teams considered among the elite in Class 1A, and McLean said Billingsley (9-2) strives for a return to that level.

“Billingsley used to be mentioned in the same breath,” he said. “We want people to start talking about us.”

Maplesville, meanwhile, is not playing to gain respect. The Red Devils already have plenty of that, as they are a perennial power that advanced all the way to the state championship game last year before falling to Pickens County.

Though it might be difficult for fans of the program to stay motivated, MHS coach Brent Hubbert said the players have no such problem because each year’s team has an identity of its own and cannot claim the accomplishments of previous squads.

Maplesville (11-0) will travel to Notasulga (9-3) on Friday. Both games involving local teams will kick off at 7 p.m.

“They’re playing in the third round for the first time since 2001, and playing at home, and from what I understand, in that community and in the surrounding area, they’re the only team left,” Hubbert said. “We’re expecting it to be a hostile situation, a hostile crowd. We hope we have support there because we feel like that will have an impact.”

While preseason and early-season coaching centers on fundamentals of the game and learning how certain players will respond to pressure and adversity, Hubbert said coaching staffs at this point of the playoffs spend more time studying the opponent and making sure players understand their assignments in certain situations.

“You get to this point, the fundamentals have been set,” he said. “It’s more about learning the opponent as fast as you can and executing the game plan based on what they do and don’t do.”