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Devils seek repeat effort vs. Gleason

Devils seek repeat effort vs. Gleason
Devils seek repeat effort vs. Gleason | Devils seek repeat effort vs. Gleason
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
Repeat or revenge?
Having played both cards against Gleason over the past three seasons, South Fulton head coach Kelly Spivey did not bluff when revealing his hand this year.
“I’d rather be on the side that lost the first go-around if I’m having to play a team a second time in the same season,” the Red Devil skipper admitted in preparation for the teams’ rematch in Round 1 of the Class 1A playoffs Friday.
Spivey and the Red Devils will have no such luxury after handing Gleason a resounding 35-6 Week 5 thumping.
And he’s hopeful history doesn’t repeat itself in the series which saw SF — beaten handily in a regular season meeting with the Bulldogs in 2009 — bounce back with an equally convincing thrashing in the rematch in which revenge was indeed the battle cry.
“The big thing for a team that has beaten the other in a rematch is focus,” Spivey claimed. “It’s hard to get kids motivated when you play the same team twice in one season. A lot of time, they start looking ahead to the next game, thinking it’s a given that what happened the first time will happen again.
“We probably played our most complete game of the year the first time, and we certainly haven’t come close to that since then. That’ll be one of our themes this week, trying to focus on getting back to that level, rather than remembering what the outcome was.”
SF dominated that contest in all phases, with bruising fullback Cody Tatum having his biggest game of the season with 104 yards rushing and three touchdowns and an opportunistic defense forcing four turnovers.
On the flip side, Gleason appeared lethargic at best with quarterback Conner throwing a key interception just before halftime, and the Bulldogs mustering just 186 total while South Fulton rolled up 351 yards.
But the Red Devils, who won just once in four games after beating Gleason and were an on-the-bubble team to get into the postseason, will encounter a pack of Bulldogs likely playing their best ball of the season in Friday’s second encounter.
Gleason went 3-2 over the second half of the year after its loss to South Fulton, finishing up with solid performances in back-to-back victories to secure a playoff berth, a .500 record and the No. 3 seed in the West quadrant.
The Bulldogs’ two losses during that stretch came to unbeaten Class 1A No. 1 Huntingdon and state-ranked Dresden (2A). After the second of those two setbacks, they hammered Scotts Hill 36-7, then soundly whipped Bruceton 33-6 in what likely was their best overall game of the year.
Verdell ran for two TDs, threw a touchdown pass and returned an interception for a fourth score while a gang-tackling defensive unit held the Tigers to less than 100 yards total.
Spivey witnessed that contest in person and confirmed Gleason appears to have its A-game ready for Friday’s rematch.
“They were really impressive on defense. They seem to be playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of fire,” the coach said. “Up front, they looked good, too. I’d say getting (two-way lineman) Conner Verdell back from injury really has helped them.
“A lot of good things happened to us in our first game. We were opportunistic with the turnovers, their quarterback struggled some, and we were able to pound them physically. We can’t expect that all of those same things — or any of them, for that matter —will happen again on Friday.”
Gleason could be motivated, as well, by the prospects of winning for just the second time-ever in the playoffs, coming in with an all-time mark of 1-8 in previous such games. It will mark just the second-ever home playoff game in the program’s history — the other coming in 1982 when the Bulldogs hosted and lost to Middleton 13-6.
“This is something we thought could happen when we started to look at the playoff possibilities before the brackets were announced,” Spivey concluded. “I’m sure both teams have looked at it and see that either of us could play West Carroll again if we win, and that’s motivation for both of us because they’ve beaten us both.
“We can’t be concerned with that right now, though. We just have to look at it like it’s new season. Everybody is 0-0 and nothing that happened before Friday night matters at all.”
Spivey is counting on that approach to come up aces for the Red Devils.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 11.1.11

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