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In week 9 of the regular season, the Oliver Springs Bobcats turned their season around with a 32-27 victory over No. 6 ranked Wartburg at D.J. Brittan Field.
Now if the Bobcats want to keep their season going, Wiley Brackett’s squad must duplicate the feat on the road as Oliver Springs travels to Wartburg Friday night at 7 p.m. for the second round of the TSSAA Class AA playoffs.
“Anytime you try to beat a good team twice in a season it’s going to be tough,” Oliver Springs head coach Wiley Brackett said. “We know they’ve got a good team and we’ve got a good team. We know whichever team blocks and tackles the best is going to win.”
Wartburg head coach Dan Shoemaker, however, isn’t using revenge as a motivator this week.
“The big thing we’ve worked on all year is being 1-0 at the end of the week,” Shoemaker said. “We’re focused on trying to beat them this week. We always try to look forward and not back at the last game.”
In their first meeting on Oct. 22, the Bobcats picked up the win, but their defense struggled at times as they gave up 480 yards of offense. Bulldog QB Rusty Phillips threw for 266 yards in that game with WR Adam Spence hauling in 14 of those passes for 144 yards.
For the season, Phillips has thrown for 1,829 yards and 22 TDs while throwing only 5 interceptions. Phillips has also added 477 yards and 5 TDs on the ground.
Spence is also having a phenomenal season as he has hauled in 72 catches for 1,070 yards and 16 TDs.
“Our defense is going to have to do a good job defending their passing game,” Brackett said. “Phillips throws the ball well and Spence is a guy that we’re definitely going to have to keep up with.”
While Oliver Springs yielded a lot of yards, they negated a big chunk of those yards by coming up with four turnovers and the Bobcats also scored a touchdown on a kick return while setting up another score in the return game.
“We’ve got to cut down on our mistakes,” Shoemaker said. “We’ve got to play a lot better in special teams this week. We think we’ve got that fixed.
“At this point of the season, the team that makes the most mistakes usually loses and we have to avoid those mistakes this week.”
Coach Brackett agrees with Shoemaker and knows his team cannot make many mistakes and expect to win Friday night.
“The key is to not turn the ball over and take advantages of what mistakes they make,” he said. “We’re not looking to change anything we’ve done all season. We’ve just got to limit mistakes and play hard.”
By not making many changes, that means the Bulldog defense will get a heavy dose of Bobcat QB Garrett Miller and RB Jordan Romero.
Like Phillips and Spence, Miller and Romero have put up some big time numbers this season.
Miller has thrown for 1,344 yards and 13 TDs while adding 1,079 yards and 18 TDs on the ground. Romero has been just as effective as he has rushed for 1,077 yards and 12 TDs.
Coach Shoemaker hopes his team can somehow slowdown the duo this week.
“They’re both tremendous athletes and hard runners. I don’t know if you can shut them down but we’re hoping to contain them,” he said. “We’ll have to stay balanced. If you focus too much on one guy then the other one bites you.
“But they’ve also got some more weapons out there that a lot of people don’t notice. They threw the ball really well last week against Rockwood.”
Both teams enter Friday’s game playing well and both are capable of making a deep playoff run. This one comes down to home field advantage and Wartburg having an extra week to prepare... Wartburg 28 Oliver Springs 26.
Goose’s Gander on other games of interest: Coalfield by 14 over Greenback, Sunbright by 14 over Copper Basin, Alcoa by 21 over Loudon, CAK by 3 over Polk County... Last Week 5-2; Overall 93-27.
Goose’s Gurus Picks: Wartburg, Coalfield, Sunbright, Alcoa, CAK, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Ole Miss. Overall 79-31.