Redskins get Anniston in semifinals

For the first time since 2004, and the first time ever in Class 4A, the Oneonta Redskins have reached the semifinal round of the high school football playoffs.

The Redskins find an old nemesis waiting this week – the Anniston Bulldogs.

Anniston has defeated the Redskins three times in the last 13 months and the Bulldogs seem to have mastered the kind of heart-stopping, come-from-behind victories like few teams have.

In the three games between the two teams over the past two years, Anniston has trailed 24-13 at the half, 31-14 to start the fourth quarter, and 24-7 late in the third quarter. The Bulldogs have proceeded to outscore the Redskins a combined 75-18 down the stretch in the three games to get the win.

So, what’s different this time? Well, in some ways nothing. The Redskins will bring the same team to Anniston this week that came over last month. Oneonta will line up in the same formations on both sides of the ball and play the same type of game.

However, there is one huge difference. This time Oneonta travels to Anniston on a roll and they are bringing a running game with them. Each of the three losses to Anniston had a similar theme as Oneonta would get a big lead and then try to hang on.

This time, the Redskins will roll into Anniston with a powerful running game and this Oneonta offense is capable of lining up and going toe-to-toe with just about any defense. Just ask Deshler, the team the Redskins pounded into the Gilbreath Stadium turf last Friday night.

Plus, this Oneonta team is playing with a chip on its shoulder. A 900-pound-poundmonkey on-your-back kind of chip.

If the Redskins bring the same kind of fire to the field this week, this is going to be one heck of a semifinal game.

Note – a bonfire and pep rally will be held tomorrow night ( Thursday) at 7 o’clock in the parking lot behind the old fieldhouse at Oneonta Rec Park.

As always, the game will kick off at 7 p.m. and admission is $7. Also, there is no reserved seating in the playoffs – it’s firstcome, first-serve at every game.

Friday, Nov. 25 4A Oneonta (11-2) at Anniston (9-4)

All-time – Anniston leads the series 5-1. Oneonta won 34-0 in 1920 while Anniston won 33-0 in 1930 and 19-0 in 1939. More recently, Anniston won 41- 34 in 2010 at Oneonta and 34-31 in the second round of the playoffs last year. The Bulldogs defeated Oneonta by the same score of 34-31 earlier this year at Anniston.

Oneonta 28, Southside 7
Alexandria 28, Oneonta 27
Oneonta 43, Springville 14
Oneonta 56, Locust Fork 20
Oneonta 47, Hayden 6
Oneonta 35, St. Clair County 7
Oneonta 42, Jacksonville 6
Anniston 34, Oneonta 31
Oneonta 49, Cleburne Co. 34
Oneonta 42, Susan Moore 3
Oneonta 42, Guntersville 7
Oneonta 35, West Limestone 0
Oneonta 48, Deshler 20

Center Point 33, Anniston 7
Anniston 49, Cleburne Co. 35
Anniston 35, Alexandria 6
Springville 24, Anniston 21
Lincoln 20, Anniston 16
Anniston 67, Locust Fork 0
Anniston 42, St. Clair County 7
Anniston 34, Oneonta 31
Anniston 47, Jacksonville 14
Briarwood 34, Anniston 7
Anniston 41, Cherokee Co. 0
Anniston 25, Dora 20
Anniston 14, Fayette County 0

Playoff history – Oneonta has made 30 playoff appearances and the Redskins are 43-26 overall in the playoffs. The Redskins are 6-1 in the semifinals (2-1 at home; 4-0 on the road).

Anniston has made 23 playoff appearances and the Bulldogs are 25-20 overall. Anniston is 2-2 in the semifinals (0-1 at home; 2-1 on the road).

These teams know what to expect from each other. The key is which team can execute the best and make the fewest mistakes.

Oneonta has cranked up the intensity in the playoffs. The Redskins blew through Guntersville in the first round in what was the team’s most complete performance – at that time. The Round 2 trip to West Limestone was almost a ho-hum win but last week’s utter annihilation of Deshler might have been a warning to the rest of 4A – the Redskins are back to playing big-boy football.

Oneonta ran into a defense that was determined to stop the passing game last week so the Redskins decided to go with two tight ends and pound the ball. Oneonta sent 170-pound battering ram Tyler Smith between the tackles or outside on the stretch play and Deshler had no answer. The longest runs for Smith (24 and 29 yards) came in the second half against a worn down Deshler defensive front and Schyler Walker helped to finish off the Tigers with touchdown runs of 41 and 35 yards. The Deshler defense wanted no more of a Redskin running game that churned out more than 270 yards.

Oneonta’s use of the two tight end formation could pay off again this week. Anniston surrendered 150 yards to Oneonta in the regular season in what very easily could have been a Redskin victory. Keep this in mind – Oneonta rushed for 150 yards and Tyler Smith did not have a single carry that night. Look for Anniston to get a full dose of Smith this Friday night.

Smith (along with Walker and Terrell McDaniel) will need another great night from the Redskin offensive line. This group has really come together and could prove to be the difference Friday night. Anniston linebackers Denzel Roberts (6’1, 183 Sr) and Lafayette Ragland (6’2, 219 Sr) are active and disruptive and the Redskin line must get to the second level of the defense and get a pad on those two to be successful.

If the Redskin running game is effective this week, then the Oneonta passing game (which produced 150 yards and three touchdowns the last meeting) is even more dangerous. Anniston looked to cover Alvin Scott and Jalen Johnson one-on-one on the outside with a safety helping deep. The Bulldogs had some success with that plan but if the Redskin running game has success then the Anniston safeties will be forced to help on the run and that should open up the secondary.

The Oneonta defense actually did a pretty good job against Anniston last month. However, with the game on the line in the second half, the Bulldogs put together drives of 65, 89, 75, and 77 yards.

The Redskins have to do a good job against Bulldog running back Troymaine Pope. The 5’9, 195-lb. senior had 175 yards rushing and caught three passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns in the first game.

He has put together an incredible year with 2351 yards on 211 carries (11 yards per carry!) with 30 rushing touchdowns and 12 receptions for 422 yards (35 yards per catch!) and seven touchdowns. He has also added three touchdowns on special teams for a total of 40 touchdowns on the year.

The Redskin defense held Pope to 3 yards or less on 11 of his 23 carries in the first game. However, he had runs of 56, 46, and 29 yards and changed the momentum of the game with a couple of big plays. It was his 77-yard touchdown on a screen pass that put the Bulldogs ahead to stay.

If Oneonta wins this week, it will more than likely be because the defense held Pope in check.

Junior quarterback Spencer Howard really played well in the win against Oneonta last month. His numbers are modest – 49 of 99 passing for 736 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions – but he is capable of making plays.

The offensive line is led by Dontavius Blair, a 6’7 271-lb. senior tackle. He is the best of a unit that averages 245 pounds.

The Redskin defensive front must play well this Friday night against an Anniston offensive line that has had problems this year against better defenses.

Oneonta special teams should have an advantage this week. Anniston had problems on punt snaps in the first game and Scott had a big kickoff return in the fourth quarter that led directly to points with the short field.

Anniston made easy work out of Cherokee County in the first round but the Bulldogs had their hands full on the road at Dora in the second round.

The Bulldog defense held Fayette County under 200 yards last week but the Tigers were missing their top running back and their quarterback was battling a hip injury. The Redskins should be healthy and ready to rumble Friday night.

Next week – The winner advances to face either UMS-Wright or Jackson in the 4A State Championship Game next Friday, Dec. 2, at 11 a.m. at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.