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Brian Tannehill / For The Herald Edgewood's Kam Burleson runs the ball.

A return trip to Atmore has been in the works since last November as Edgewood’s football team is back in the same spot it was last season. The Wildcats got past their first-round opponent to set up a rematch with Escambia in the AISA-AA semifinals and they now have a chance to get the revenge that has been a driving force this season.

However, now the matchup is set, Edgewood is turning its focus away from last year’s game and toward securing a spot in the state championship game in Troy.

“Now that we’re here, it’s not about revenge for us,” Edgewood coach Darryl Free said. “We have to focus on this year’s team. They’re more athletic on the edge and still have a good running back. There’s very little to take from last year.”

Escambia (8-3) snuck past Edgewood last season after not throwing for a single yard and riding a 400-yard performance from running back Patrick McGhee to a 39-31 victory. Fortunately for the Wildcats, McGhee will not be playing Friday but Free said there are still plenty of players to be concerned about on Escambia’s offense. 

Quarterback Landon Sims has plenty of options to work with including receivers Shannon Wheat, who scored twice in the first round, and Ty Williams, who has at least one touchdown catch in five straight games. The Cougars have now won five straight, averaging 44 points per game over that span.

“They’re peaking at the right time,” Free said. “We’ve sputtered a little bit at times but I think we are ready to play at a high level this week.”

Edgewood (9-2) has struggled to find some consistency on both sides since its bye week but the Wildcats continue to find ways to win, most recently holding off a late Lowndes comeback attempt in the first round. Edgewood’s defense allowed just three touchdowns in the first four weeks but in the last month, the Wildcats have allowed 28.6 ppg.

Some of those mishaps can be credited to the special teams unit which has allowed three kick return touchdowns during that span, including two last week. Free said he believes those are correctable mistakes and he believes some personnel changes to get more experience on the field in those situations can help

“Toward the end of the season, you’re going to have to fight through some fatigue,” Free said. “It can be hard to find that energy but hopefully we can get up for this game because it’s so big. This is a win or go home game so we’re going to have our best 11 guys out there as much as possible.”

Edgewood has already surpassed last year’s win total and the Wildcats feel like they have made progress as a program no matter what happens this week. However, the Wildcats have the goal to go one step further in the postseason and they have the opportunity to do that.

“This team has taken a lot of steps forward so we don’t want to hinge all of our success on one game but we do know getting a win this week would be huge,” Free said.

PREDICTION: Escambia 34, Edgewood 28

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.