Some losses are easier to move on from than others and Wetumpka is still in the process of learning that the hard way. After losing to Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa on the final — and controversial — play of the game, Wetumpka players had a difficult time turning their attention to their next opponent.
Before anyone could get to sleep on Friday night, the final play was already a viral clip across social media gaining statewide attention and by the time everyone woke up Saturday, it had a national spotlight on it. As a team, Wetumpka has moved on to preparing for this week’s game against Benjamin Russell but it still does not make it any less difficult to forget about what happened last week.
“It is very difficult,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “They played maybe our best game so far this year. The mood in the locker room after the game was a lot of disappointment but it’s also just some fuel to the fire. We can’t wait to get back out on the field. We want to channel this hurt into more passion and more drive and I’m confident our guys can do that.”
Perry said he has been proud of the response from both the players and the coaching staff on doing their best to turn the corner to get ready for Friday’s road trip to Alexander City.
Wetumpka (2-2, 1-0) is returning to region play as one of only two teams in Class 6A Region 3 without a region loss. With everything at stake in this week’s matchup, Perry believes his team will be forced to have a quick turnaround and not linger on the Hillcrest defeat.
“This is a region game so with all the playoff implications these games have in it,” Perry said, “a region championship is a goal and we’re still in that race. Our focus is going to be on those facts. One game is not going to define us.”
Wetumpka believes the key to finding some success this week lies within the offense. The most noticeable improvements have come on that side of the ball and Wetumpka is coming off its best week of the season, gaining more than 400 yards of offense with a balanced attack.
“The confidence keeps growing every week,” Perry said. “Everyone on the offense is so unselfish. A lot of different guys are getting touches and everybody is excited about that. Our offensive line is doing an incredible job of controlling the line of scrimmage. They are all gaining confidence every week and it’s exciting to be a part of.”
Benjamin Russell (0-4, 0-2) has struggled to slow any offense down so far this season, allowing 42.5 points per game through the first four weeks. However, Perry is not taking the Wildcats lightly at all and credits most of those defensive struggles to the strength of schedule Benjamin Russell has faced through four weeks.
“Coach (Kevin) Smith is a veteran coach and they are really well coached,” Perry said. “When you look at their schedule, they have had a tough run. We can’t focus on win-loss record because that could be misleading. That’s how you set yourself to take a team too lightly. We never want to underestimate anybody. If we don’t execute the way we should, every team is going to have a chance to beat us.”
One of the biggest concerns Benjamin Russell brings to the table is its athleticism, led by playmaker Elijah Spivey. In last week’s defeat to Helena, Spivey was responsible for both touchdowns, scoring on two long pass completions from Carter Smith.
Spivey has lined up at wide receiver and quarterback already this season but no matter where he lines up, Wetumpka has to be prepared to limit his gains when he gets the ball.
“It’s very difficult to defend an athlete of his caliber,” Perry said. “They do a great job of moving him around to get the matchups they are looking for. We have to find him on every play because the offense goes through him. He’s very dangerous with the ball in his hands.”
PREDICTION: Wetumpka 38, Benjamin Russell 14