“I told our guys it was going to be a dog fight,” head coach Arlton Hudson said. “We knew we were playing a real good football team. It was a football team that pretty much dominated us last year. We knew our off-season program has been good and we knew we were a lot stronger. We were able to take it to them. Going into the fourth quarter, we had a 12-7 lead.”
This week, the test becomes more like a midterm exam against sixth-ranked Fort Dale Academy. One of the biggest obstacles is facing a team with easily twice as many players on the roster.
“They’re a huge football team,” Hudson said. “They’ll dress out over 50 kids. We only have 18 varsity players against a group that has over 50. We played great this past weekend against Autauga and had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. We weren’t able to quite finish it. I hope it’s a game that we can last and be able to finish the game and just finish the job. That’s what happened to us last week. We just came up a little short. This week, we’re facing another opponent that has a very good quarterback. If you can contain the quarterback and slow him down a little bit, you can have a chance to win the game. If you can’t contain him, then it will be a long night.”
Hudson is aware, perhaps more so than anyone, that his team still faces a gauntlet of a schedule, as the team has two more ranked opponents on the schedule later in the season.
“I knew there would be some bumps along the road, but I still think we have plenty of time,” Hudson said. “Football season is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. So, we’ve got to get ready to go run the marathon and not worry about running a 100-yard sprint. I think in the end we’ll have a football team. We’re basing our goals and things that we can do on things that we can control. Playing a team that has over 50 players, we can’t control that. We’ve got to play the schedule that was given to us. Overall, our kids are anxious to get to play and they welcome a good opponent. We’ll have good opponents all year. It doesn’t get any easier for us. We have Restoration coming up, we’ve got Edgewood coming up, we’ve got Bessemer on down the line, all big schools that have twice the numbers that we have. We just have to take it game by game and go that route. Again, we feel like we can play with anybody. We just got to try to improve every week and have that same chance to win the game like we did last week and this time we’ve got to finish it.”
This week’s game is a non-region game, so it holds less weight overall. However, an upset win against a ranked opponent would surely turn a few heads for the Rebels.
The Rebels struggled last season against the Eagles, losing on the road 49-17. Fort Dale was the same squad that lost to eventual AA champions Edgewood, a team that finished 14-0, by a mere point.
This year, Coosa Valley does have the home-field advantage and Hudson said that was helpful in last week’s game.
“We had a great crowd,” Hudson said. “The crowd got into it and they were very appreciative of the effort that the guys gave. It was a hard-fought game. It was a good high school football game—as good as you could ever ask for. There were a lot of big plays on both sides. We just encourage our fans to come out and support these guys. They deserve it; they’ve worked hard all summer and they’re playing good football.”
Fort Dale lost to Autauga Academy last season, so while they will surely be a challenge it is a winnable game.
Fort Dale is coming off a close 32-26 home win against Escambia Academy. The Eagles had a bye in the opening week of the season.
Not only is this a winnable game for the Rebels, but Hudson said his team has developed a winning frame of mind.
“Our kids gave us 48 minutes as hard as they could play the game of football,” he said. “When you have a bunch of guys that do that, that’s all you can say. I tip my hat to them; they came out ready to play. They knew they had to play well to have a chance to win. We played well and we had a chance to win. When you’ve got a group of guys that does that with the size that we have, it was stacked against us. But we didn’t go out there with our minds set that they’re were going to beat us; we went out there with mind set that we were going to win the game. That’s what I’m more encouraged about than anything. They’re not going out there to just play the game close. We’re going out there to win.”
CVA hosts Fort Dale Friday at 7 p.m.