It may have playoff implications, but Success Unlimited Academy coach Bill Granger isn’t putting any more emphasis on this week’s game with Fort Dale Academy.
With three teams in Class AAA Region 2 still unbeaten three weeks into the season and the other three region teams all with losing records, the battle between Success (1-2) and Fort Dale (1-2) could end up being for the fourth and final playoff spot.
“As a coach, you’d better just work on it as the next one because if you put more importance on one, then you’re not playing a region game or a rival, all of a sudden that game becomes less,” Granger said. “We need to focus on how can we get ready to play this opponent. And it’s not the end-all, be-all, either way.”
The Mustangs are coming off a 51-20 loss to region rival Monroe, while Fort Dale is coming off a 49-13 loss to region rival Macon East. For the Mustangs, a first-year football program that includes many players who have never played varsity football before, the lessons learned from playing perennial power Monroe were many.
“We took our time with our game film,” Granger said. “What leaps off, and it did at the ballgame, was fundamentals, technique, assignments. We just have to get a little more disciplined. At the point of attack, we weren’t that bad, we just weren’t taking care of the cutback lanes and an experienced running back pressed hard until he found that crease and exploited us.”
Building discipline and chemistry takes time and tradition isn’t built overnight. When Granger notes that his team needs to improve on fundamentals, he also hopes his players will take more ownership.
“Some of that is on them, the seriousness of wanting to be good,” Granger said. “But there is absolutely nothing (that solves the problem) other than playing time and getting your nose bloody and learning from that.”
Granger started Jamari Smith at quarterback before turning to Isaiah Jackson later in the game and he’s going into this week’s game with a plan to play both.
“It’s obvious that one (Smith) is a bigger, stronger guy and one is a little more elusive,” Granger said, “but they both are very talented. Each one of them could be a quarterback on anybody’s team but how does that fit what we’re trying to do offensively (in each particular game)? I’m really glad to have them both, to tell you the truth.”
Like last week, the upstart Mustangs will need their best effort this week to beat a disciplined team that is accustomed to winning under veteran coach Speed Sampley. The key for Success, as it is with any team, is running the ball and stopping the run. They had some success stopping the rushing attack of Springwood and Pickens in the first two games and will need that type of performance this week.
“Everything comes off the (ability to) run and stop the run and both of them were not good last week,” Granger said. “If we’re going to be a good football team on defense, you’ve got to stop the run and there’s more to it than just whipping the guy in front of you and making the tackle. When you’re playing talented people, it’s lanes and responsibilities and keys and playing the backside.
“On the offensive side, it’s understanding that it’s not pee-wee (football). When you have a block and you engage well, you must sustain it and you must always be looking for the next block. Sometimes down the field, we were making a good play but then we wanted to turn into more of a cheerleader.”