PREP FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS: Fairview, Cullman preparing for round 2 matchups

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The Fairview Aggies (left) are traveling to take on Anniston in round two while the Cullman Bearcats (right) return home to host Oxford. (Martha Needham and Joe McElroy for The Cullman Tribune)

Three local teams fell in the opening round of the AHSAA State Football Playoffs last week, but the Fairview Aggies and Cullman Bearcats are still alive. Cullman blanked Mae Jemison 20-0 on the road to advance and collect its first 6A playoff win in school history while the Aggies sprinted past Central Florence 46-20 for their first postseason victory in nine years. Now, both teams will face even tougher tests in round two. The Bearcats are returning to Oliver Woodard Stadium to host the Oxford Yellow Jackets and Fairview will hit the road to face off against the Anniston Bulldogs.

Class 6A: (6-5) Cullman vs. (10-1) Oxford

For the first time since 2013, there will be postseason football at Oliver Woodard Stadium. The Oxford Yellow Jackets are making the trip to Cullman and they’ll be one of the toughest tests the Bearcats have faced all year. The Yellow Jackets are scoring over 41 points per game, holding teams to just 13 and have outscored their opponents 456-147 throughout the season. Oxford’s only loss came against Clay-Chalkville. The Yellow Jackets will be the fifth ranked opponent that Cullman has faced this year, joining Hueytown, Muscle Shoals, Jasper and Mortimer Jordan.

Head coach Oscar Glasscock has spent some time looking at Oxford this week and there’s one thing that really stands out to him on tape.

“Athleticism. They’re extremely athletic and there are Oxford alumni in the NFL right now. They always seem to have kids going to SEC schools and on to the NFL so this team is loaded athletically and of course Coach (Keith) Etheredge won numerous state championships at Leeds and now he’s there so they’re just one of the top 6A programs year in, year out to say the least.”

Glasscock and his staff have developed a winning formula for the Bearcats throughout the season and they don’t want to change their style regardless of who the opponent is. They want to force other teams to play their style of game and play into their strengths.

“The keys for us winning the game don’t change. Each individual player has to focus on doing their job and not be concerned about who the opponent is, what the score is or whether we’ve had success or failure. You have to focus on each play regardless,” Glasscock said. “Obviously in a game like this you have to win the turnover battle, you have to win special teams, we can’t give up explosive touchdowns and we have to get first downs, If we can do those four things, we’re going to have a chance in the fourth quarter. When we’ve been successful this year, we’ve kind of taken control of those four things.”

It’s been six years since the Bearcats were playing a postseason game at home, so this Friday’s atmosphere is sure to be electric. Regardless of the hype and circumstance around the game, Glasscock wants his team to approach this week’s matchup like any other and focus on taking care of their individual responsibilities.

“It’s an awesome thing to be able to host a playoff game at Oliver Woodard Stadium. That’s kind of a goal I think for any program is to host a playoff game. That means you either placed in the top two in your region or you’ve won a playoff game and that’s a goal that we have every year. I think our approach this year has just been focusing on the task at hand, blocking out the noise and just focusing on doing our job. We have a saying that we sort of cling to this year and that’s ‘Stone Cold Business’. That means that we’re not going to let ourselves get phased by anything that happens in the game or what the opponent may do or say,” Glasscock said. “There’s a certain standard that we want to play to and a way we want to conduct ourselves and our kids have done a super job of buying into that and not making one game too big. Obviously, it’s going to be fun and exciting and something to enjoy and I don’t want our guys to miss the moment but at the same time they have to focus on the little things and taking care of their job and playing as hard as they can. Everything else is secondary to that and I expect nothing less from our guys Friday.”

The plan is in place for the Bearcats to find success this week and if they can get the ball to bounce their way a few times, they’ll have a chance to pull off a major upset in front of a home crowd.

Class 4A: (9-2) Fairview at (7-4) Anniston

It’s been a special season for the Fairview Aggies and they plan on extending that season Friday night when they arrive in Anniston to face the Bulldogs. Anniston has won three straight coming into this postseason matchup and has played some of its best football of the year during that stretch, outscoring Ashville, Childersburg and Fayette County by a combined score of 103-6. The Aggies are riding a win streak of their own having won their last six meetings and are putting up over 43 points per game since falling at Priceville in September.

Fairview head coach George Redding has gotten a chance to look at the Bulldogs and he sees a team with speed and size at all the right positions.

“Overall, the team speed is really good and they’ve definitely got some size up front,” Redding said. “They do a good job of getting to the football and on the offensive side, they’re a run-first team and they really try to create some mismatches with some unbalanced formations and try to get a numbers advantage on you.”

The Aggies have been putting points on the board during this six-game winning streak and Redding credits the offensive front for a lot of that production.

“I think it’s just been a commitment to who we are and to the plan and that plan has varied from time to time based on what we’re seeing and our guys have done a good job executing things whether we need to be an edge type of team or a power, off-tackle type of team, our guys have done a really good job of buying in to that kind of stuff,” Redding said. “We’ve been taking care of the football; we’ve done a good job with that this year and leaning on those guys up front. I think our offensive line has done a good job in the run game, our running backs have done a great job and we’ve played good defense.”

Last week’s win was a huge one for Fairview as it was the first postseason win for the Aggies since 2010 and sometimes that can lead to a let down the following week. Redding was watching his team closely on Monday and likes the mentality they’ve brought into round two.

“You can tell a lot about your team based on how they come in that following Monday and when they came in this week you’re wondering, ‘What’s their mentality?’, ‘What’s their body language?’ and they came in very attentive,” Redding said. “We were excited about getting to work and we reminded them that there’s only 16 teams getting to do that today in our classification. It’s an honor and we’re blessed to be where we’re at and we’re excited about this opportunity. I felt like our guys came in with a great attitude and ready to go to work.”

It’ll take a sound performance on both sides of the ball but if the Aggies can continue to play their game and move the ball on the ground, they’ll have a chance to get back to work on Monday.

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