Young Bulldogs looking for strong opener vs. Thomasville

IMG_3054 copy One of the state’s longest-standing rivalries resumes Friday night when Sweet Water kicks off the 2015 regular season at home against Thomasville. The Bulldogs, who lost to Thomasville 24-6 a season ago, are looking for their first win against THS since 2008.

“I want to see the guys compete. Every year we tell them to give ourselves a chance to win. We want to go out there and have a good ball game and give ourselves a chance to win there in the fourth quarter,” second-year Sweet Water head coach Pat Thompson said.

The game will stand as a considerable litmus test for the Bulldogs, who roll into the 2015 campaign with a youthful roster highlighted by only three seniors.

“We’re real young this year. I’ve got three seniors. All three guys started for me last year. I’ve got Branson Davis back at quarterback. I’ve got Wynn Thompson back on the offensive line and Paul Weatherly. But after that, we drop down with some younger guys. We’ve got about four or five juniors that are playing, a bunch of sophomores. And we’ve got a couple of freshmen that we’re going to stick out there Friday night and put their feet to the fire and see how they react,” Thompson said. “Those three seniors will be leaders. I’ve been real pleased with those guys in the summer and early here in fall camp. My younger guys are really coming on. I expect big things out of guys like Will Huckabee, Jonah Smith, Luke Davis. They’ve been there before, so they know what we expect of them.”

Despite the inexperience on the roster, Thompson is excited about his football team as the season draws closer.

“This is a good group of kids. They love the game. They really care about each other. They’re working hard,” Thompson said. “I think, because of our youth, that we’re only going to get better as the season goes along.”

IMG_3019As the Bulldogs ready to open the campaign, they find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being unranked in the Alabama Sports Writers Association polls with statewide expectations falling off after the attrition of graduation. Still, Thompson said his players maintain the same level of expectation as they’ve carried each season.

“It’s Sweet Water football. There’s always pressure to do well. We don’t look at the rankings right now,” Thompson said. “Our ultimate goal is to get in the playoffs and win the championship. Being in the polls right now doesn’t really matter. It’s that last one that really counts.”

Accomplishing that goal starts with navigating a region that includes tradition-rich programs such as Washington County and Leroy as well as ever-talented groups like Mobile Christian and Flomaton. Lining up against Thomasville give the Bulldogs the chance to shake the cobwebs out before beginning that region slate.

“It’s very important. Our region is super tough top to bottom every year and this year is no exception. We’ve got some really good teams. But Thomasville is kind of a measuring stick for us,” Thompson said. “We know that if we can play well against them, then we can play well against our region because we won’t see anybody that is as fast as them or has the big guys that they’re going to have.”

The Bulldogs host Thomasville at Nolan Atkins Stadium Friday night with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.