“It is a big week,” Pell City head coach Brooks Dampeer said. “No matter who you are playing it is a huge week. There is so much weighing on it for postseason, obviously, being a rival Oxford. They are a well coached team, good players, a lot of tradition adds to it. Our kids are excited and I am sure they are excited as well.”
The Panthers are coming off a dominating win over Lee-Huntsville on last week, With the win, Pell City improved to 5-3 on the season and 4-2 in Class 6A Region 7 play. Dampeer said that his team has been focused and locked during practice this week.
“It has been a good week,” Dampeer said. ”I just told them a few minutes ago that they have done a good job of being focused Sunday through today Monday was a really good practice, you could see a lot of enthusiasm and that is what it is about. If you can get 15 and 16 year old kids to lock in and have one goal and one mind set good things can happen.”
Last season, the roles were flipped going into week nine; the Yellow Jackets needed a win to get in the playoffs, while the Panthers were trying to secure home field advantage. Pell City defeated Oxford, 34-28 to eliminate the Yellow Jackets from postseason contention.
Oxford (6-2, 5-2) enters tonight’s game looking to increase their winning streak to seven games. Auburn commit Racean Thomas has carried the Yellow Jackets this season. In Oxford’s win last week over Albertville, Thomas rushed for 230 yards and four touchdowns on 20 carries. For the season, Thomas has 1,208 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“Oxford is a very talented team,” Dampeer said. “They are very physical from what we are seeing. Obviously, Thomas is a great high school player and he is going to have a good career in the future as well. They really hang their hat on him and as he goes the rest of the team goes. We got to rally to him as well as the rest of them. He is a special player and their offensive line is blocking well in front of him. It will be exciting. It will be a challenge; we have to run to the football. Defensively, they still have the big noise (guard) back, the safeties are good players. They are very solid, they have been on a six game winning streak, and they are not giving up a lot of points. They are a challenge for us, but we are looking forward to it.”
Last week, the Panthers used their air attack against Lee-Huntsville. Senior quarterback, Jackson Williamson went 23-29 for 186 yards in the first half. He also scored two touchdowns on the ground, which matched fullback Damurian Wills, who scored two touchdowns last week.
Dampeer said offensively, the Panthers will have to execute and win their personal battle to help them get past the Yellow Jackets.
“It always comes down to running the ball, but come down to making plays in the air, Dampeer said. “If you are throwing the hitch, you have to catch it. You have to keep those chains moving.”
Not allowing Thomas to get off big runs and winning the turnover battle are two of the keys that Pell City hopes to leave Oxford with a playoff berth.
“Ball security, we have to win the turnover battle,” Dampeer said. “We have to find a way to get a leg up in special teams. We have to contain their running game and not give up any big plays. Offensively, we have to control the ball. We have to execute when we opportunities near or in the red zone.”
Pell City plays at Oxford tonight at 7 p.m.