By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Addison is inching ever closer to securing its first region title in seven years — or in Bulldog years, a painstakingly long, drawn-out 49.
Standing in the way of that goal for Class 1A’s No. 4 squad is sixth-ranked Falkville, which, like Addison, enters Friday’s highly anticipated showdown undefeated with hopes of reining in region glory.
Only one team can walk away with the win, though, and senior leader Kolten Denson fully intends for that team to be the Bulldogs.
“That’s put a lot on us,” the senior said of the squad’s region-title drought. “We keep thinking about how we’d like to break that. This one means a lot right here.”
It’s been quite awhile — five weeks to be exact — since Addison has played in a meaningful ballgame, but Denson is confident his coaches and teammates still know how. That’s mostly because of the Bulldogs’ tried and true practice habits, which aren’t altered in the slightest to tailor a specific opponent’s pedigree.
For David Smothers, who called this week’s showdown “the biggest game since I’ve been the head coach,” preparing for the Blue Devils will be no different than getting ready for Southeastern, Shades Mountain Christian, Appalachian, Meek or Sumiton Christian. The last five weeks, Addison sported a margin of victory just a shade more than 45 points in consecutive victories over those region foes, scoring no less than 43 points and giving up no more than 12 points during the run.
“We haven’t changed anything we do practice-wise,” said Smothers, who’s in his second year. “We work out on Monday and Wednesdays and then we go practice. That’s what we’ll do until we’re through playing this year.”
Added Denson: “We’ve got to work on some things, but that’s every week, trying to get ready. But them boys are ready. We’re ready to go.”
Although the Bulldogs put up a season-high point total in last week’s 56-12 win against Sumiton Christian, Smothers and his players still weren’t entirely pleased with the victory. The coach said Addison was hindered by a few position-specific problems and coughed up a ball on offense that was recovered by the Eagles for a 70-yard scoop-and-score.
Those kinds of mistakes won’t cut it this Friday on the road versus a top-notch opponent like Falkville (6-0, 5-0 in Region 6), which has shared an uncannily similar amount of success as the Bulldogs (7-0, 6-0) so far this season.
The Blue Devils have averaged 44 points per game on offense, yielded a mere 6.5 points per game on defense and shut out three opponents, slightly better than Addison’s marks (41.3, 7.9 and two) in each category.
“I know that they’re very capable of beating us, and we’re very capable of taking care of what we need to take care of,” Smothers said. “They do a great job of keeping you off balance with their offense. They’ve got a good mixture of run and pass.
“And they like playing defense. I guess there’re some similarities there because I feel like our kids here like playing defense, too.”
The biggest difference between the rivals can be found in the competition they’ve faced.
The Bulldogs opened the 2013 campaign with wins against 2A Ider (20-8) and Ragland (28-20), another region contender. Falkville, meanwhile, is just getting to the meat of its schedule, following a bye last week with a brutal stretch against Addison, Ragland and 3A Danville, all teams the Blue Devils lost to in 2012 after another perfect start.
Cross-referencing common opponents is far from an exact science, but for what it’s worth, Falkville squeaked by Meek 27-20 in Week 4, while the Bulldogs crushed the Tigers 47-8 in Week 6.
Smothers doesn’t put much stock in the disparity between those scores, though.
“I don’t look at that at all,” he said. “They may’ve had some key kids injured that week. They may’ve went in there and not had a good game. Maybe they went in there a little overconfident. You just can’t ever tell with kids.”
Addison is 32-17 all-time in the series after victories in each of the last two meetings. Last year’s matchup was won 20-12 in a physical ballgame that saw the Bulldogs go ahead for good in the third quarter and stave off the Blue Devils by keeping them off the board in the second half.
Smothers doesn’t figure the latest installment in the rivalry will be any less suspenseful — and neither does Denson, especially with the region title on the line for Addison if it wins.
“I expect it to be a fight,” the coach said. “Last year, we were fighting to be No. 2. This year, we’re fighting to be No. 1, so it’s huge.”
Added Denson: “In my head, I’m thinking it’ll come down to the nitty gritty like that again, right down to the wire.”
A freak accident shortly before the season forced quarterback John Everett to miss Addison’s first three games, but he’s been glad to be back on the field from Week 4 on, spending more than enough time behind center to feel comfortable heading into Friday’s marquee matchup.
The junior signal-caller was in the locker room getting ready to change his clothes for a workout when he heard someone call his name. As any unsuspecting kid would do, Everett turned around to see who had spoken, never knowing a dime was heading straight for his eye when he did.
Like that, the Bulldogs were briefly without a quarterback, or at least 15 cents considering the worth of the dime that struck Everett’s orbit.
“Someone was standing over there, they twirled around and just let go of it,” he said. “They didn’t mean to. I was just in the wrong place at the right time.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.