Adam Winegarden keeps it simple: His team is playing for a region championship, so he wants them playing at a championship level.
Auburn High has its chance to clinch the Region 2-7A title tonight against Smiths Station, when the Tigers (8-0 overall, 4-0 region) host Smiths Station (3-4, 1-2) at Duck Samford Stadium.
Auburn High has one more game against Enterprise left on the region schedule after this one, but there’s not enough activity left after this week for second-place Central-Phenix City to pass Auburn High since the Tigers’ hold the head-to-head tiebreaker — so long as Auburn High wins tonight.
“We’ve been telling our players all week that this game, for us, can wrap up the region championship, so it’s a championship game to us,” Winegarden, the Auburn High head coach, said Wednesday on the High School Coaches Show on 97.7 FM. “We’ve got to prepare as it’s a championship game, so we’ve got to bring our best to the table and go out there and perform at our highest level.”
Auburn High unseated perennial power Central back on Oct. 2, during an epic 29-28 road win over the Red Devils. Since then, Winegarden and Auburn High worked to get a game added for an open date last Friday, but after a game was scheduled with a Georgia team, that team had to call off that game later in the week and the Tigers had to sit idle.
The Tigers will be back in action tonight to try to seal up the programs first region championship since 2013.
Smiths Station, meanwhile, is seeking an upset win that could vault the Panthers back into the playoff hunt under the direction of head coach Mike Glisson.
“Coach Glisson and his staff, they do a really nice job with their team,” Winegarden said on 97.7 FM. “They’re always very fundamental. They’re competing for a playoff spot too in these last few games.
“They have a very capable team and they’ve won some region games. So, we’re going to have to play well. They have a good quarterback who can make plays with his feet and a good running back, and they’re very sound on defense. So we’re going to have to go out and earn the win.”
After tonight’s game, Smiths Station is set to close region play at Dothan High on Oct. 23.
“I think taking care of the football is big,” Winegarden told the radio show, on his keys to beating the Panthers. “Everybody says the ball bounces funny, but the goal is to not the ball hit the ground to bounce. We need to take care of the football. We need to establish the line of scrimmage and then play well in the kicking game. I think those are all big factors.
“It’s going to be a physical game,” he added. “It always is. It’s always a very gritty game, and an aggressive game, physical game — so we expect nothing less.”
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