By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Fairview’s defense is well-versed in the complexities that come with facing a dual-threat quarterback.
Every day in practice, the unit goes toe-to-toe with Luke Bailey, an All-State signal-caller who is more than capable of holding his own with the best passers and runners that Alabama high school football has to offer.
Having that kind of experience against a versatile athlete like Bailey could come in handy for the Aggie D when it takes the field against Munford (7-3, 5-2 in Class 4A, Region 5) this Friday at home.
Like the Purple and Gold (7-3, 5-2 in Region 6) the Lions’ biggest threat comes from a kid who can do a little bit of everything behind center. With more than 1,000 yards through the air and just as many on the ground, quarterback Monteo Garrett has been the rock on an athletic Munford squad playing in the postseason for the first time since 2005.
Fairview coach George Redding isn’t taking Garrett lightly after watching film on the Lions this week. After a so-so 3-3 start, the junior signal-caller propelled his team into the playoffs with consecutive victories against Hokes Bluff, Cherokee County, Anniston and Class 5A Talladega.
“He’s just now coming to grips with how they’re doing things over there. He’s getting more and more at home every week,” Redding said of Garrett, who’s accounted for 26 touchdowns so far this season. “I think he does what they need him to do extremely well.”
As impressive as Munford’s star might be, the Aggie coach didn’t flinch when given the choice between his quarterback and his opponent’s.
“I don’t know if anybody is going to know a system as well as Luke knows ours. He’s a coach on the field for sure,” Redding said. “Having Luke out there and our defense having to see what he’s able to do week in and week out helps prepare us.”
The Lions bring a great deal of athleticism and speed to both sides of the ball. According to Redding, they work mostly out of the spread on offense but also throw in a few “exotic formations” to keep D’s on their toes.
If Munford can rush anything like West Point, Sardis and Oneonta, then Fairview could be in for some trouble. All three had no problems running wild on the Aggie defense earlier this year, especially the Warriors, who racked up 361 yards on the ground last Friday in a 31-26 upset.
“It’s important that all 11 guys on the field are getting after it,” Redding said. “There’s not going to be any opportunities or plays where one or two guys can be coasting.
“We’ve got to play all the way to the whistle. I know that’s a cliche, but it’s important because sometimes when a play looks like it’s about to end, it’s just now fixing to get started for this group.”
The Lions’ D hasn’t been nearly as effective as its counterpart, allowing a pinch more than 25 points per game. The unit, which operates out of a 3-4 base, gave up 34, 42 and 41 points in Munford’s losses to Lincoln, Central Clay County and Alexandria.
Redding acknowledged Fairview’s explosive offense could potentially cause problems for the Lions but only if the Aggies are able to eliminate costly mistakes. They had four turnovers last week, pitched four interceptions in a loss to Oneonta and have struggled to take advantage of opportunities to score at various times throughout the season.
“We’ve rollercoastered a little bit offensively in my opinion this year,” Redding said. “We’ve had some crucial mistakes and turnovers and opportunities that we didn’t cash in on.”
Fairview’s final drive and last shot to overtake West Point came to a screeching halt with a fumble that sealed the deal for the Warriors. At this time of year, gaffes like that are the difference between advancing to the next round or watching the rest of the postseason from the bleachers.
“It’s playoff time. You can’t have those kinds of things and expect to get through,” Redding said. “Everybody is good in the playoffs, so it’s important that you play your best game.”
As the region’s No. 2 seed, the Aggies earned the right to host the Lions in the cozy confines of Dafford Smith Stadium. That leaves Munford with a two-hour drive to a venue that Redding refers to as “second to none.”
“That’s going to be good with our guys getting to play in front of our own atmosphere,” he said. “The fans here are great. It’s going to be a great atmosphere for football for sure.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.