By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
George Redding is no stranger to the playoffs.
Ever since he took over the Fairview football program back in 2007, the Aggies have played in a postseason contest five times — they came up just short in the coach’s first season — and will make it six in a row when they travel to Haleyville on Friday night.
Prior to Redding’s arrival, the Purple and Gold had just six playoff appearances in the previous 16 seasons.
“It’s always exciting to make it back here,” Redding said. “It’s not easy to come by. We are blessed and fortunate to be back. A lot of people counted this team out early, so I’m very proud and pleased about our team and our season so far.”
When the Aggies (5-5, 4-3 in Class 4A, Region 6) travel west to take on the Lions (9-1, 6-1 in Region 8), they’ll need all the postseason experience they can muster — and more — as they’ll be tasked with defeating a very potent Haleyville squad.
The Cardinal and White are winners of six straight — scoring an average of 34 points a game during that span — and offer Redding all kinds of potential headaches as Fairview prepares its gameplan for Friday night.
“We’ve seen tons of film on them,” the coach said. “They do a great job at utilizing the entire field. They make you have to adjust to a lot of things. Their team reminds me a lot of Sardis in how they spread you out and get the ball out quickly. Their styles are very similar.”
The Aggies defeated Sardis 43-42 in Week 8 so, if Redding is on to something, Friday night’s playoff clash could see a bunch of points on the scoreboard.
However, if the Purple and Gold hope to pull off the upset on the road, they will need to put forth a much better performance on the field than they did last week in a 41-14 loss to county-rival West Point.
Fairview’s offense struggled mightily to move the ball against the 5A Warriors’ D, while its defense wasn’t any better, allowing four rushing touchdowns in the blowout defeat.
“You never have time to sit around and feel sorry for yourselves,” Redding said. “We did some things in that game that hurt us, but that was last week. We get a fresh start. We get to mix it up this week while a lot of other teams don't.
“We've got to stay focused on us and do what we do well. We can't put ourselves in tough situations against a team like Haleyville. It's important for all our guys to do their part for us to be successful.”
One of those guys is senior wideout Ethan Widner, who isn’t quite ready for his season to come to a close just yet.
A longtime starter, Widner has been privy to a postseason game in each of his four years on the varsity squad.
“It means a lot to me to be back for my senior year,” he said referring to the playoffs. “I’m starting to look back on the days I was a freshman wishing I had a little bit longer to play. We are really honored to still be playing and not packing our bags yet, because I know there are plenty of seniors out there who didn’t get that lucky.”
Added linebacker and fellow senior Christian Seals: “Everyone counted us out coming into the year, and we proved them wrong. I’ve been working even harder this week knowing it could be my last ever game with my team. We need to keep it close and hopefully we can pull it off in the fourth quarter.”
If there’s one thing Fairview knows about, it’s close games.
The Aggies have won three of its contests by one, two and four points, respectively, and lost two by two and four as well.
However, Haleyville isn’t exactly foreign to thrilling decisions, either, with one- and two-point wins — over West Limestone and Hamilton, respectively — in its final regular season games.
Whether Friday’s outcome goes in favor of the Aggies or not, Redding knows he and his team have been fortunate to still be playing November football in most of their seasons together.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to win, though.
“You better believe it,” he said. “You can't take anything for granted. When you have the ability to play this great game, you enjoy it. Hopefully our seniors grasp that and soak in every bit of Friday night. We’d like to take advantage of that and be in this thing come next week.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.