Which ACA team will show up for the playoffs?

Reece Solar and the Alabama Christian offense hope to minimize mistakes in first-round matchup at Lincoln

Back at full strength after a rash of injuries this season, Alabama Christian Academy’s football team heads into the first round of the Class 4A state football playoffs with several goals intact from the beginning of the season. But is that enough?

Alabama Christian (3-7) is limping into the playoffs, following up their best win of the season against Ashford against a fourth-quarter collapse at home against 3A Weaver. So which ACA team will show up to play Lincoln?

“The thing that we like about Lincoln is we think we know what we’re going to get because they’re consistent week in, week out,” ACA coach Nate Sanford said. “They’re speedy and athletic. They’re not huge, but that doesn’t matter if you can’t catch them.”

It may help that this isn’t the first time ACA has faced the situation. It’s a formula the Eagles have used defensively week after week, trying to contain a quarterback-oriented team. In fact, it’s a style they face every day at practice against their own offense.

“The trend, more and more, is dual-threat quarterbacks who can all run 4.6 or better,” Sanford said. “It seems like we face one of those just about every week this season. Lincoln is no different. The problem is you have to pick your poison because a running quarterback gives the offense a plus-one advantage. Where you normally wouldn’t have to account for him if he throws or hands off, now you do.

“Now the challenge is it’s not only going to be a dual-threat quarterback, it’s going to be a good team surrounding the dual-threat quarterback.”

But whether the Eagles can contain junior Javion Surles or not may not be as important as whether ACA can prevent the self-destructive mistakes that have turned a promising season into a major disappointment.

“We’ve definitely been banged up this year,” Sanford said. “We’ve just now gotten to where the lineup we thought we would have at the beginning of the year is who we’ve got back. The only hiccup is we didn’t convert on a first-and-goal last week against Weaver that I think would have sealed the game and we ended up losing it. It doesn’t matter with the playoffs, but it matters to the mindset of a 16-year-old kid, to go into the playoffs with confidence.”

If the Eagles play like the team that showed up two weeks ago against Ashford, they likely will advance to the second round, a home game against the Hillcrest-Sipsey Valley winner. If they play like the team that played last week against Weaver, it may turn out to be the final week of the season.

“The whole idea of athletics is not that you get to win every time, but that sometimes you win and sometimes you learn,” Sanford said. “If we can translate the difficult lessons that we have had this year, then the reality of the matter is that everyone is 0-0 at this point. Sometimes, a team that’s 3-7 can put some things together against a 7-3 team that has key injuries or it’s not their night or they don’t execute like they want to and you can come out with a result that might surprise a lot of people.”