By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Flash back to the end of last year’s regular season.
Hanceville had just finished a perfect 10-0 campaign and was riding high heading into a first-round playoff matchup against 6-4 Elkmont.
But, in a game no one saw coming, the Bulldogs were stunned by the Red Devils, losing 28-13 and thus, ruining their dream season.
Now, flash forward to this season.
After a 0-3 start, it looked like Hanceville might still be hungover from that heartbreaking loss a year ago.
However, the Bulldogs rebounded with seven straight victories to clinch the No. 2 seed in the Class 3A, Region 5 standings with a overall record of 7-3 (5-2).
Coach Danny Miller and his Bulldog squad will look to atone for last season’s letdown as they welcome the No. 10 Deshler (7-3) to Hanceville on Friday night.
“You know, the kids have talked an awful lot about what happened last year,” Miller said. “It was the first playoff game for each one of them and that was their goal then. Now that we are here again, we all want to do something about it.”
The Bulldogs will certainly have their hands full Friday as they take on a Deshler team that’s scored slightly more than 52 points per contest during its current six-game winning streak.
“I saw them play last Friday,” Miller said. “They’re a really, really good team in a really strong region.”
This season marks Deshler’s first year back in 3A since 1983. The Tigers spent the time between in 4A, where they played for six state titles in the past 15 years.
Deshler’s class has changed in the last couple decades, but Miller added not much else about the Tigers has.
“I saw them play about 15 or 20 years ago and, let me tell you, not much has changed,” he said. “They run the Wing-T, and they do it about as good as anyone around.”
Miller mentioned running backs Chandler Brown and Terrance Byrd as potential playmakers for Deshler. He also said senior quarterback Justin Cantrell is a dual-threat athlete who can make plays on offense.
“We’re going to have to be disciplined defensively and play assignment football against them,” the coach said. “They don’t run a lot of different plays, so we’re going to have to be ready for what they do run.”
On the other side of the ball lies some “big” problems for the Bulldogs, as Hanceville’s offensive line will face a challenge it hasn’t seen all year long when they line up against the Tigers.
“We haven’t faced size like this all season,” Miller said. “Combine that with the fact they play a lot of players and very little of them both ways, and that’s an advantage for them on defense.”
When Miller talks about size, he’s not lying.
Deshler’s starting defensive tackles enter the game with a combined weight of approximately 600 pounds. They also have a 225-pound sophomore linebacker named LaDrelin Cheatum, whom Miller thinks is the Tigers’ best overall defensive player.
Asked to name a particular strength the Tigers had on defense, Miller laughed as he answered with, “A lot.”
He added the main goal for Hanceville on offense will be to sustain drives throughout the game.
“We got to keep the football away from them,” Miller said. “If we continuously give them the football, they’re going to score.”
Despite the challenges that await his team on Friday night, Miller said they are looking forward to the game.
“It’s going to be tough, because it’s a tremendous challenge,” he said. “But, it’s also a great opportunity for this football team as well.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.