Tigers preparing for tough Pennington defense

By Staff
Mike Self FCT Sports Editor
Technically speaking, the Red Bay Tigers won't be facing a region champion when they travel to take on J.B. Pennington tonight in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs.
But as far as Tiger head coach Dale Jeffreys is concerned, they might as well be.
"They probably should have won their region," said Jeffreys, who has guided Red Bay to eight consecutive playoff appearances. "They had a bad night at Vincent [a 27-20 double-overtime loss in Week 4], and they ended up finishing second. So, more or less, it's like we're facing a region champion."
The Tigers (5-5 overall) finished 5-2 in Region 8 and edged out West Morgan for the No. 3 playoff seed as a result of their 24-21 win over the Rebels in Week 4.
Pennington, meanwhile, went 6-4 during the regular season. The close loss to Vincent was all that prevented the Tigers from posting a perfect record in Region 5.
"They lost to Oneonta last week 28-27, and Oneonta is a good 4A program," Jeffreys said. "[Pennington] has some big kids, and they've played really well on defense. Offensively, they don't have a lot of speed, but they like to run the ball right at you. They're similar to Wilson [which beat Red Bay 14-10 last week], but they probably throw the ball a little better."
Pennington held three opponents this season to six points or less, and they have allowed an average of only 11.4 points in seven games against Class 2A competition.
Jeffreys said his team must execute better if they hope to move the ball successfully against Pennington's defense.
The Tigers have been somewhat inconsistent on offense, averaging 31 points per game in their five wins compared to only 12 per game in their five losses.
"Offense has kind of been our problem area this year," Jeffreys said. "We have some playmakers on that side of the ball, but we've turned the ball over too much. We've played pretty well defensively. Our defense is not allowing many points, probably less than 14 a game. We're just not scoring enough. Plus, we've given up a few scores on offense and on special teams, and that's hurt us.
"Those are the kinds of things we have to avoid against Pennington. We can't turn the ball over and make a lot of mistakes."
Red Bay will likely rely heavily on a strong running game, particularly with junior quarterback Anthony Horton out with a knee injury.
Horton suffered a torn ACL over the summer and missed the first eight games of the season before returning in Week 9 against Hatton. Horton looked sharp against the Hornets, completing 11-of-13 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-6 win.
Last week against Wilson, however, Horton hurt the same knee again while scrambling out of the pocket late in the third quarter. This injury is not believed to be nearly as serious (Jeffreys said doctors think Horton may have torn the stitches left over from his original surgery), but Horton is out for the remainder of the season.
"We hate it for Anthony, because he worked so hard to get back out there," Jeffreys said. "He didn't want to come back for himself; he wanted to come back and help this team win. The guys on this team recognize the sacrifices he made to come back, and we definitely want to go out there and do well for him."
Sophomore Cody Tucker, who started virtually all season in Horton's absence, will be back under center full-time. Tucker and junior running backs Josh Senkbeil, Pablo Makepeace and Cody Armstrong give Red Bay four different players with 100-yard rushing games to their credit this season.
Senkbeil (142 yards on 24 carries) and Makepeace (102 yards, 15 attempts) both went over the 100-yard mark against Hatton.
The winner of tonight's game will advance to face either Ranburne or No. 2 Fyffe in the second round.

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