Intriguing Implications: Rivals square off with prized playoff berths on the linePublished 11:13am Wednesday, October 23, 2013
The Stanhope Elmore Mustangs and the Wetumpka Indians are no strangers to big, implication-laden games. The rivalry itself serves as enough motive for the winner of the meeting to brag for 364 days and the loser to lose sleep until they meet again.
This year’s county showdown between the Region 4 rivals Friday at Hohenberg Stadium features a playoff spot on the line for Stanhope (4-4, 2-4) and Wetumpka (4-4, 3-3), who are currently tied for third and fifth respectively in the region standings.
“The fact that it’s a region opponent, the fact that there are playoff implications associated with this game and the long-standing rivalry between Wetumpka and Stanhope,” Indians coach Tim Perry said of the game’s importance. “Rivalries in high school athletics is what makes it so special. When you have two communities that have competed over such a long period of time, and these rivalries are developed, that makes for a great atmosphere.”
A win against the rival Indians would keep the Mustangs playoff hopes alive, heading into the final week of the regular season. And that’ what it all boils down to for Stanhope and coach Jeff Foshee.
“The games get bigger each week,” he said. “The rivalry game is important, but the playoff implications are the most important.”
Wetumpka admittedly entered playoff-mode two weeks ago, after a tough stretch of games that left them on the postseason bubble. The team has won two straight for the first time since the season’s opening two ballgames, and Perry said his team needs to build off its last two performances.
“We want to take the approach of ‘take another step,’” said Perry. “Keep building our level of play. We know that Stanhope is a very well-coached football team. Coach Foshee and the coaches at Stanhope are experienced football coaches, they know how to get a team ready. Our focus is not on the playoff implications, but it’s going to be on playing a very good football team.”
Victory for Wetumpka will all but seal a playoff berth for the Indians. In 2010, the Mustangs was in the same position, needing a win over their rival to advance to the playoffs. So, Foshee has experienced both sides and knows that Friday’s game will be won in the trenches.
“They have some weapons who are pretty sporty,” said Foshee. “They have a pretty good bunch, so we’ve got to play four quarters. We’ve got beat them in the trenches on both sides of the ball.”
Both coaches agreed that their teams will need to limit mistakes and play solidly for 48 minutes to win. If they do that, the playoff situation will take care of itself.
“We need to make sure our players are prepared and know their roles,” Perry said, “and let all the other things like the playoff situations take care of itself. If we’re not focused on our preparation–focusing on our preparation is our priority.”
Stanhope and Wetumpka kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday at Hohenberg Stadium.
Copy Editor Kevin Taylor contributed to this report.