On paper, this week’s trip to Calera may not bring the same level of excitement as Stanhope Elmore’s first three games. However, after last week’s big win in the Class 6A Region 3 opener, the Mustangs are looking to feed off that energy in their third of four consecutive road games but coach Brian Bradford said he does not expect that to be a problem.
“The energy is still going to be there because it’s another region game,” Bradford said. “If the kids aren’t fired up to play a region game, they have problems. So I don’t see the kids having any let off after Friday night, especially when it’s that kind of win. Everybody is feeling good about themselves right now and are focused on what we want to accomplish.”
Stanhope (2-1, 1-0) will once again look to its defense to lead the way but the Eagles pose a bigger threat than they did a year ago. The Mustangs won this matchup 35-12 last season but Calera has shown some new strength, specifically in the rushing game, which will require Stanhope’s talented defensive line to rise to the challenge.
After last week’s loss to Wetumpka, Calera is 1-2 (0-1) but there have been plenty of positives to pull from, including the performances by running back Blake Shoddie. He has rushed for over 100 yards in all three games, including a 154-yard game against the Indians.
“I mean, he’s good. He’s very good,” Bradford said. “He’s shorter but he is really thick and he runs through everybody. He’s done that all year so we have to really be on our game in order to slow him down. It’s going to be a lot of the same thing with keeping them in the box and trying to gang tackle. It’s about getting as many people to the ball as we can.”
Shoddie is not the only concern for the Mustangs. Kobe Prentice is used as a speed back and has scored at least once in all three games while quarterback Quin’Darius Crews is a threat to run on every play. Calera combined for 293 rushing yards against Wetumpka and recorded 11 carries of at least 10 yards.
“Everybody has to stay in their gaps and control their reads,” Bradford said. “We have to make sure we’re reading our keys and flying to the football. Eye discipline is going to be big for us this week because they do a lot of misdirection stuff.”
Calera is looking to avoid a three-game losing streak and get its first region win at home since 2017. Bradford said its clear the Eagles are improved this season under first-year coach Trey Simpson so the Mustangs should expect a much better game than the one they got last year.
“They always have a lot of great athletes and they’re a good football team this year,” Bradford said. “I see them being another tough game so we have to play at our best to have a chance to compete.”
Stanhope is continuing to search for consistent success on offense and this week may be the best week to get some momentum going for the rest of the season. Calera has allowed 30.4 points per game over its last 13 games plus Stanhope’s 35 points in last year’s meeting was a season high for region play.
“They do a really good job on defense,” Bradford said. “The secondary is really talented and really disciplined so it’s going to be a challenge to throw the ball on them. We’re going to have to execute at a very high speed and maybe do some different things to give us a little bit of a spark.”
PREDICTION: Stanhope Elmore 24, Calera 7