Panthers relying on physicality against Maplesville

Marengo Panther Micheal Lewis throws a pass against the A.L. Johnson Eagles.

Marengo Panther Micheal Lewis throws a pass against the A.L. Johnson Eagles.

DIXONS MILLS—The Marengo Panthers (5-5) will embark on the 90-plus-mile trek from Dixon’s Mills to Maplesville Friday as they are set to lock horns with the No. 1 seeded Red Devils out of Region 3.

Maplesville (10-0) is the No. 2 ranked team in Class 1A and an overwhelming favorite in Friday’s matchup. They feature a ferocious defense that has only surrendered 87 total points to opposing teams, on their way to three shutouts and seven games in which the Red Devils held their opponent to just seven points or less.

Marengo coach Dredrick Bell never hesitated when asked about Maplesville’s impressive regular season statistics.

“We just got to do what we do. We got to hit them in the mouth early and often. Everyone’s got to bring their A-game, especially me calling the plays,” Bell said. “That being said, I truly believe we have a more physical team; grind it out all game and win it in the fourth.”

The physicality is not as much of an issue as depth throughout the Panthers’ roster. MHS will utilize a solid core of 15 players who will see the majority of snaps on offense and defense as well as special teams. This could prove troublesome for the Panther defense as Maplesville’s offense will most likely try to incorporate a mixture of misdirection plays with QB roll-outs as a potential backside burner.

Bell acknowledged the existence of such a threat by again illustrating, in a calm and confident demeanor, what his team has to do to combat these threats.

Marengo Panther JaMarkus Pritchett (1) gains yardage as A.L. Johnson Eagles' Michael Mason (88) and Theodis Burton (55) give chase.

Marengo Panther JaMarkus Pritchett (1) gains yardage as A.L. Johnson Eagles’ Michael Mason (88) and Theodis Burton (55) give chase.

“Once again, we’ve got to win the battle up front,” Bell said. “There’s no excuse that we should have when trying to stop the run. We can’t let them develop a downhill running game. We’re going to make them beat us through the air. Hit them in the mouth at the line and lock up coverage, that is the key.”

Marengo has a chance to shock the state Friday as their talent has been largely undervalued all season long. An unexpected upset always happens the first week of playoffs, and for a team who finished (0-10) just one year ago, the Panthers have to be asking, “Why not us?”