The Holtville football team has not started region play with a 3-0 record since the 2010 season, but head coach Jason Franklin and the Bulldogs have the chance to do just that on Friday night.
Holtville, under fifth-year head coach Franklin, is 2-0 in Class 5A, Region 4 play for the first time in the last 11 years. And to get to 3-0 like the Bulldogs did that season, Holtville will have to beat Talladega this Friday at home at 7 p.m.
Holtville is currently 3-1 overall with a 2-0 record in region play, joining Central Clay County as the only undefeated teams left in region play.
Holtville opened region play with a 36-14 win over Elmore County two weeks ago, and then beat Beauregard 21-14 last week. Last week’s win was the first win over Beauregard in school history.
“After the West Blocton loss, we had a heart-to-heart and since then, we have been on the same page and that’s been the turning point for us,” Franklin said of Holtville’s start. “Everyone is playing as a group and being selfless teammates. We are worrying about the team outcome instead of individual stats.”
Standing in the way of Holtville’s 3-0 start is a Talladega football team that presents a unique challenge. Talladega (0-4, 0-1) has less than 30 players on their football team. That’s a small number for a Class 5A team, and the Tigers entire school district has been dealing with COVID.
Talladega City schools have recently transitioned to virtual learning and are adopting a hybrid class structure for the remainder of the semester. Since school has started in Talladega County, 319 students and 27 employees have tested positive for COVID, which is 4.4% of the school district’s population, according to the school district’s website.
But despite the county’s COVID issues and the Talladega team having less than 30 players, Franklin is not taking this game easy. Talladega has not been a push-over in its games. The Tigers, despite being 0-4, only lost to Beauregard 37-20 two weeks ago.
“Man, they have a lot of tremendous athlete on the field,” Franklin said of Talladega. “It’ll be a challenge for us having to contain all of those guys and trying to keep them in front of us all the time. We will have to play really well on defense and not have too many penalties and turnovers. Collectively, if we do that, I feel good about our chances this week.”
Holtville has also dealt with COVID issues already this year. Against Elmore County two weeks ago, Holtville was down 18 players due to contact tracing and COVID protocols. Most of those players were back last week against Beauregard, and Franklin said his team was close to full strength.
This week, the Bulldogs should be back fully healthy.
“I think, God Willing and the Creek don’t rise, we should have everybody on the team back this week,” Franklin said. “
Getting the third region win of the season is crucial for Holtville’s postseason run this year. In last year’s Region 4 standings, every team that made the playoffs had at least three region wins.
Holtville and Sylacauga, who placed 2nd and 3rd in the region, had four wins. Talladega had three.
So Franklin knows how important this game on Friday night is. His Holtville team won’t make the playoffs without at least three region wins.
“The guys have to understand that if you’re not winning region games, you’re not making the playoffs,” Franklin said. If you’re not in the playoffs, you’ll be seeing your girlfriend real soon and the season is going to end a lot quicker than you want it to. I tell the guys all the time that they don’t want to look back and regret one or two plays that could’ve changed the season. Right now, we are in control of that.”