Stanhope at BR pre

Stanhope Elmore’s defense shutout Benjamin Russell last season in a 19-0 victory. 

It is not going to be easy to get the bad taste out of Stanhope Elmore’s mouth after last week’s loss to Prattville but fortunately for the Mustangs, they will not have to wait long to get back on the football field. Stanhope coach Brian Bradford said the players had a great response during practice oMonday and they are anxious to travel to Benjamin Russell to begin play in Class 6A Region 3.

“The whole team is that way,” Bradford said. “When you lose, you’re a loser and that’s what we talked about today. Right now, we’re losers and the only way to get back from that is to win. We’re ready to get back on the field.”

Players on both sides had their pride hurt during the 42-0 loss to the Lions and while they want to use the loss as a learning tool, the Mustangs (1-1) also want to prove they are better than they showed last Friday.

“That wasn’t who we are,” Bradford said. “We’re going to bounce back. You have to learn from everything that you do. You can’t dwell on it but you have to make corrections from it.”

Benjamin Russell (1-1) has the same hunger entering this Friday after losing to Clay Central last week. The Wildcats have some added motivation as they are looking to avenge last season’s 19-0 loss to Stanhope as they want to show they are better than that performance.

The Wildcats will have a new look to its offense with Carter Smith taking over the quarterback responsibilities and Hezekiah Hunter returning to offense as the starting running back. Benjamin Russell is still trying to solve some of the same problems it had last season with putting points on the board but Bradford said the Wildcats have plenty of weapons who can do damage.

“When these two teams play, this game has always been tough,” Bradford said. “It’s always physical, hard-nosed football so we expect nothing else from them. They’re coming off of a loss too so it’s going to be interesting.”

The Mustangs are still trying to find a good balance with their offense as well but that challenge was too big against a strong Prattville secondary. Andrew Rines will start at quarterback again but Bradford hopes to have more success through the air than they have in the first two games.

“Last week, we just tried to take advantage of what Prattville was giving us,” Bradford said. “They did an excellent job in pass coverage. Andrew can throw the ball and when he did, I don’t think we were terrible. He’s a good runner but we’re going to try to throw it a little bit more.”

Bradford said Benjamin Russell’s secondary is “very comparable” to Prattville’s on film so he knows it will not come easy. The Mustangs are hoping to locate some of the things Clay Central did to get the upper hand against the Wildcats and mesh them with this week’s game plan.

“We try to look at what they saw and figure out what their game plan was and how they attacked the defense,” Bradford said. “We’re not going to change or take on what they do but we do want to see how they did it because obviously they saw something to attack.”

With region play starting, Bradford said there was less room for error but he does not feel the need to push a change in mentality with his team. The Mustangs have already seen two high-stakes games so they should be ready for the ones with playoff implications.

“Last week was Prattville,” Bradford said. “We know how much that means so I don’t know if it’s going to be a shift in mindset. This is a big game for us but so was the last one. We just want to be a little bit more mentally focused this week.”

PREDICTION: Benjamin Russell 17, Stanhope Elmore 13

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.