Pell City looks to clinch playoff berth tonight
The Pell City Panthers take on the Huntsville Panthers with playoff implications on the line tonight.

Pell City, Huntsville and Gadsden City are involved in a three–way tie for second place in Class 6A, Region 7. The Panthers of Pell City hold the tie-breaker with Gadsden City after defeating them last week. Pell City head coach David Shores said a win tonight would clinch them a playoff berth.

“We started talking about it on Sunday with the kids,” Shores said. “Last week’s game against Gadsden didn’t do anything as far as us making the playoffs. What it did was give us a better chance of being seeded if we did make the playoffs. This game against Huntsville is a potential lock for a playoff berth. If we win this game, we are a shoo in for the playoffs. By beating Gadsden, if we get in the playoffs, we have a chance to be a higher seed. (If) we finish out the season and potentially win another region game or two, you can end up with a really high seed and potentially host a first round playoff game. That is what winning the Gadsden City game did for us, if we are able to take care of business this week.”

Making the postseason will be a huge accomplishment for this young Pell City team. The Panthers haven’t made the postseason since 2007. Shores believes his team will stay focused on the task at hand with the adversity they face going up there. The Panthers have to contend with a two-hour drive as well as waiting for the first game between Grissom and Oxford to end before getting a chance to hit the field.

“We are treating it sort of like a playoff game,” Shores said. “It is a chance to get into the playoffs and we are treating it like a playoff game. I like the way it is set up. I like that we have to drive up there because it feels like a playoff game. You have to charter the buses, you have to leave early, you have to do this and do that. There is a lot of stuff going on and a lot of hype.

“The Huntsville Times made it the game of the week, so it is a big atmosphere. Our kids are excited about it. To be a young football team, they have acted pretty mature through it all. Hopefully, that will carry over (tonight) too.”

The Panthers of Huntsville (4-2,3-1) enter tonight’s game looking to clinch a playoff berth. Huntsville defeated Albertville last week, 35-17. Shore feels like Huntsville is similar to Pell City in many ways, but he knows they have a few pieces will present some match up problems.

“They’ve got some stuff that we don’t have,” Shores said. ”They have size, especially on the offensive line. That presents an issue for us stopping them and their run game. Their tailback has 930 yards rushing through six games. They are doing something right.

“They are running behind the Hill kid who is going to Alabama. The player next to him weights 380-pounds and is 6-foot-4. So they are really colossal figures on the o-line. We are not that big anyway, so we have been working all week on how we are going to slow them down and get to the running back and much less tackle him.”

The Panthers defeated Gadsden City, 21-19, last week in a thriller. Shores said he liked the energy that his team played with against the Titans.

“More than anything, the way we played from start to finish with a lot of intensity, emotion and a lot of intensity on the field,” Shores said. “A lot times you have ups and downs in games, especially with high school kids. They will make a big play and everybody will get all jacked up. Then, something bad will happen and everything drops down. There is no energy and no emotion. I have heard the really good coaches that I have worked for say you want to keep an even keel throughout the whole game, but the truth of the matter is emotion plays a big part of football. So you want to be high and if you are able to maintain a certain level of a positive attitude and positive energy throughout the game, you have a really good chance. That’s what our kids did last week. They never got down; they stayed up the entire time.”

Winning the turnover battle and controlling their running game are two things that Pell City will have to do to leave Huntsville with a victory.

“If we are able to secure the ball like we did last week,” Shores said, “I think we had one turnover against them and we collected three against Gadsden City. We have to take care of the ball like that offensively. I think we can put up some points if our defense can slow down their run game, be sound in the secondary and not give the play action stuff. I think we do some good things.”
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