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Brian Tannehill / For Tallapoosa Publishers Holtville RB Drew Pickett (8) finds a hole made by his linemen against ECHS Friday night.

Holtville was staring down the barrel of its first 4-0 start since in more than two decades but two late Beauregard touchdowns put an end to that and gave a major setback to the Bulldogs’ hopes of securing a home playoff game. 

For the first time this season, Holtville will now have to find a way to respond after losing a game. The Bulldogs have a good track record though, holding a 6-1 record in the last two seasons in weeks following a defeat.

“We have an experienced bunch so I know they’re going to be ready to respond,” Holtville coach Jason Franklin said. “We have a few things we have to correct so we’ll get back to practice and get back to work.” 

Holtville (3-1, 1-1 Class 5A Region 4) will have to find that response on the road this week as the Bulldogs travel to Talladega searching for a big win in the hunt for a postseason spot. The two teams have met with plenty on the line in the last two seasons with each program grabbing a victory. Holtville struggled in last season’s road trip to Talladega, allowing the final 34 points of the game in a 41-14 defeat, but the Bulldogs are not holding on to that game for any extra motivation. 

“We don’t put a lot into the last trip,” Franklin said. “We’re a completely different football team and I know they’re a different football team.”

One of the biggest factors in last year’s defeat was Holtville’s inability to get its rushing attack going. With the early success of running backs Drew Pickett and Shawn Bracket this season, the Bulldogs believe that can be a factor in turning around the result from last season.

However, even with the signs of progress on the ground this season, the offense has seen struggles in the red zone, none more prevalent than the ones in last week’s loss to Beauregard. The Bulldogs finished with just one touchdown on offense despite consistently findings themselves in good positions with a chance to extend their lead and put the game away.

“We probably had five drives into the red zone and only got one touchdown the other night,” Franklin said. “We can’t keep doing that. Our problem isn’t between the 20 and the 20; we’re pretty good there.”

Despite its struggles in non-region play, Talladega (1-3, 1-0) is still one of two teams to remain undefeated in region play. The Tigers lone win came on the road against Beauregard two weeks ago behind the play of Nigel Scales.

Scales is entering his third year as the team’s starting quarterback and the Bulldogs are very familiar with him as he racked up 250 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s win. However, Holtville has done a better job than many teams at limiting Scales in two meetings, including forcing four total turnovers and holding him to just a 42% completion percentage. 

“He’s a really good athlete,” Franklin said. “We’re going to have to focus on slowing him down. It starts and stops with him.”

PREDICTION: Holtville 27, Talladega 21

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.