TCHS’ mission is not over yet
Fri. November 09, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | By Andrew Carroll
Tuscaloosa County head coach Lee Gibson coaches his team against Northridge High School, October 5, 2012 at Tuscaloosa County High School in Northport. (Photo by Jason Harless)
NORTHPORT | When the Tuscaloosa County High School Wildcats assembled in August, coach Lee Gibson set the goal of regaining the swagger from years past.
TCHS lost its first game to Mountain Brook, but reeled in seven straight wins. After falling to top-ranked Hoover, the Wildcats finished the regular season with a 34-14 victory at Pell City. With an 8-2 record, including wins over local rivals Hillcrest and Northridge, TCHS was ranked eighth in Class 6A in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association poll.
The mission isn’t over. By placing second in Region 5, the Wildcats earned the home-field advantage for tonight’s playoff game against Gardendale.
"We’ve played well this year, and going undefeated against the county teams was big for our kids," Gibson said. "I think it did a lot toward getting us back to where I thought we needed to be. Hillcrest and Northridge were the kind of quality teams we lost to last year. We didn’t feel like we could compete with them last year. Now we feel like we can compete against anybody.
"Being at home for the playoffs is very big. Last year we had to go on the road. We’re going to do like we’ve done in the regular season and take it one week at a time. It takes only five more weeks to win it, but if you look ahead that’s how you get beat. More upsets happen in the first round than in any other round."
TCHS didn’t play Gardendale this season, but the Rockets and the Wildcats had been in the same region. Gibson said his team faced Gardendale in a spring jamboree.
"We’ve seen pretty much everything over the course of the season," Gibson said. "Gardendale uses a lot of formations, and they’re a well-coached football team."
The TCHS defense is allowing 9.3 points, 79.8 rushing yards and 118.1 passing yards per game. Linebacker Ted Colburn leads the team in tackles with 85. Jimmie Maddox has 57 and Hunter Jenkins 49. Terance Leatherwood has a team-high seven sacks, and Lucas Webb has four interceptions.
The TCHS offense, which averages 21.4 points per game, gained 485 yards in the win over Pell City.
"Our kids have been practicing hard every week," Gibson said. "They’ve been building confidence in practice, being able to do it Monday through Thursday. It doesn’t just happen on Friday. Going against our defense helped to build confidence for the offense. We had almost 500 yards. The kids just took what they gave us and made the most of each opportunity."
Tylan Perry leads the Wildcats with 529 yards rushing. He ran for a score and caught a touchdown pass from Tyler Gates in the win over Pell City. Derrick Burns, who had a rushing touchdown last week, has 333 yards.
"Derrick is going to be a special ballplayer," Gibson said.
If Gibson needs to use bigger backs in goal-line situations, he can turn to Cornelius Prewitt or the 225-pound Colburn.
"We’ve probably used more formations this year than we’ve ever been in before," Gibson said. "We put a lot out there for the other teams to prepare for."
Gates has thrown for 1,272 yards and nine touchdowns.
"The last three games he has run the offense and thrown the ball as well as anybody we’ve had here in a while," Gibson said. "It’s been a pleasure to see him develop, especially late in the year against quality competition. We asked a lot of him this year, and he’s done an outstanding job."
Perry has 21 catches for 308 yards and four touchdowns. Allen Cooks, who caught a touchdown pass against Pell City, has 22 catches for 274 yards and three touchdowns.
Reach Andrew Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0223.