Indians hosts No. 4 McGill-Toolen in round 2Published 10:14am Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Playoff football exacts more than just the x’s-and-o’s and talent.
All remaining teams, at this point in the season, have those characteristics. Teams need a separating factor, and for the Wetumpka Indians (7-4) that determinant is their mindset.
But head coach Tim Perry and his coaching began cultivating his team’s mindset midway through the regular season when it was reeling on a four-game losing skid and the chance of making the playoffs seemed bleak at best. Now, the Indians are heading to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs versus fourth-ranked McGill-Toolen (10-1) and riding a five-game win streak because of its psyche.
“The reality was, we had to face the remainder of our regular season games like playoff games in order to give ourselves an opportunity to qualify for the playoffs,” Perry said. “So we started getting into that mindset, and we’ve tried, as a coaching staff, to build on that and our players have accepted it, they’ve bought into it. So each week, we just try to make sure as coaches that we point out or emphasize to them that the reason why we’re able to put ourselves in a position to win the (Daphne) game was because of the approach we’ve taken, the way we’ve prepared, the confidence and we’ve just continued that pattern.”
Postseason play also tests a team’s survival instincts. In their opening round contest against Opelika, McGill-Toolen outlasted the Bulldogs best effort in a 21-20 thriller.
“You know, we just found a way to survive,” said Yellow Jackets head coach Bart Sessions. “That’s one of those things that gets overlooked this time of year, you just have to find a way to advance. We scratched and clawed. Our kids understand that we’re blessed to be where we are, to get by Opelika. Now, you look ahead and try to find a way get past your next opponent.”
Wetumpka survived its first round game against Daphne Friday. Usually reliant on its offense to set the tempo, the Indians leaned on its senior-laden defense to make plays and force turnovers to preserve the 14-10 victory. Perry said his defense upped its play against the Trojans, who are also known to have an efficient offensive attack.
“The guys, now, are a lot more comfortable in their roles, they understand their positions,” he said. “That confidence now allows them to play faster and more confidently that they are comfortable with their assignments and how to play their position. So, as a result, our level of play has gone up. Friday night we were very proud of all our guys defensively. They held a very good offensive team out of the end zone in the second half, and really only held them to one touchdown the whole game. To be able to hold a team like Daphne to just one touchdown in four quarters, and then to make the stops they made and to make the plays–the interception in the end zone, several key sacks that stalled their drives. Friday night just seemed like every time we needed a play made our defense made it to stop their drives.”
McGill-Toolen presents another challenge for the improving Indian defense. Senior skill players Ito Smith, running back; Harry Satterwhite, quarterback and four senior wideouts power the attack for the Jackets.
“We’ll look to our seniors,” Sessions said. “We’ll rely on those kids that have proved it in the wars. We understand Wetumpka is a very tough place to win a good football game. I’ve spent time at Prattville (2007-09), so I know they take pride in how they play the game, and coach Perry has only enhanced that. It’s going to be a very tough matchup for us.”
Sessions knows his defense will have to stand tall against its second-straight effective rushing foe.
“They are a very good running football team,” he said. “We have to find a way to limit their two running backs, (Charlie) Crenshaw and (O.J.) Jackson. They’ve got quality backs that are as good as anyone we’ve seen. And with two of them, that’s makes them even more dangerous. But when you focus on them, their quarterback (Sammy) Britton will make a play–he had two big run plays against Daphne. We just have to play our game. If you can go out and play your best, then you can walk off the field with our head held high and feel good about what you did.”
Both coaches concurred that much of the focus will be bettering their own team. For Perry and Sessions, continual cultivation of their teams’ mindset, that they belong there, is paramount as the teams dive deeper into the playoffs.
“You need to worry about yourself as much as your opponent,” Sessions said. “You know on the other sideline, there’s a great football team. So you better worry about your team having its best week of practice and hopefully coming out and playing to its full potential. A lot of times, coaches and players get caught up admiring the other guys on film that you forget about yourself. We’re here too and we’re a good team. So we need to concentrate on us, work on the basic fundamentals of football, and we’ll get an opportunity and that’s all you ask for this time of year.”
“We, not in an arrogant way, but we’ve presented to our team that we’re in the playoffs because we’ve earned our way,” said Perry. “It hasn’t been by luck, or it hasn’t been by chance, it’s been because we have won the games that we needed to win in order to qualify. We’ve earned our way. Our point to them is that we are a good team. All teams are good in the playoffs. So we need to think of ourselves, not in an arrogant way, but in a confident way that we’re here because we earned our way. We belong here.”