The calm before the storm
Legacy will be on the line when the Maplesville Red Devils (12-1) take on the Cedar Bluff Tigers (13-1) in the Class 1A state championship at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa Thursday at 3 p.m.
Despite winning the state title a year ago, the Red Devils have a sour taste in their mouth from the last time they played in Tuscaloosa, a 38-18 loss to Pickens County in the 2013 championship.
“We know exactly what that stadium is like,” Maplesville head coach Brent Hubbert said. “That left a bad taste in our mouth and that is a big motivating factor. We want to go redeem ourselves.”
Standing in Maplesville’s way is Cedar Bluff, which enters the game having averaged nearly 44 points per game offensively.
“We have been fortunate to put up more than a few points in mostly every game,” Cedar Bluff head coach Jonathan McWhorter said. “Whether its 20 points or 50 points, we know that we’ve go
t to do just enough to win, whatever that may be.”
According to McWhorter, the reason behind the success is the experience that they returned. The quarterback, two wide receivers and four of five starters along the offensive line are all back fro
m a season ago.
“They’ve got some great size and they can get some yardage behind those big offensive lineman,” Hubbert said. “We’ve just got to do what we do. Execute and hope that’s enough.”
Cedar Bluff’s only loss came in the regular season finale in a 16-13 defeat against Class 3A Sand Rock. However, the Tigers refocused and won four straight playoff games including a 53-40 victory over Decatur Heritage Christian to earn a spot in the final.
“We have a senior-laden team, and that’s where the majority of our leadership is provided,” McWhorter said. “They understand that one win or loss last week cannot effect what goes on the next day. I kno
w that’s cliché, but it really is true with this group.”
The Tigers finished champions of region 7-1A and went undefeated against the other six teams in the region. Having such a large region, Cedar Bluff has been playing meaningful games throughout much of the season.
“It is almost like being in the playoffs every week,” McWhorter said. “The focus has to be there if you want to contend for a region championship and put yourself in a place to be successful.”
Two years ago, Cedar Bluff missed the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. According to McWhorter, since then the current core of upperclassmen have dedicated themselves and set the stage for a very special season.
Preparation has continued to be the same for Maplesville leading up to the game. A lot is running through the minds of the Red Devil players, but has not diminished the focus on the task in front of them.
“During the week it’s still the same excitement with thinking ahead about being in Tuscaloosa,” Hubbert said. “We will not be at a lack of support, and they [team] know that they are representing our community and our school. That plays a big role.”
According to Hubbert, the schedule of game day is to wake up and have breakfast, which will be followed by a pre-game meal at 11 a.m. The players will then have about an hour to kill before they arrive at the stadium.
Hubbert does not expect the start time to play any factor in the outcome or the Red Devils’ performance.
“We practice every day at 3 p.m., so it doesn’t really change a whole lot,” Hubbert said.