The playoff road gets more treacherous as you advance as both Arab and Moody figure to find out Friday night.
Talk about two teams that have been on a collision course without even knowing it, the Blue Devils and Knights have had remarkably similar seasons.
Last week, Moody defeated Jasper in the first round of the 5A playoffs to set a school record for wins at 10. Arab did the same with its 54-14 win at home against East Limestone.
Arab (10-1) entered as a No. 1 seed after winning Region 7 with a 6-0 record. The Knights were ranked seventh in the final 5A poll.
Moody (10-1 and ranked sixth) entered as a solid No. 2 seed after finishing runner-up to undefeated and second-ranked Leeds (10-0, 6-0) in Region 6.
Both have talented skill players, rugged offensive and defensive lines and stingy defenses. For good measure, both teams overcame adversity last week as both battled the flu. That impressed each team’s head coach.
“I’m so proud of our guys,” Moody head coach Jake Ganus told the Trussville Tribune. “We had a rough week. We had 41 kids out with the flu (last) week at different times. Wednesday, we were without 27 guys.
“I’m so proud of these coaches because we were having to move guys around just to practice.”
Arab had similar issues but head coach Lee Ozmint was more proud of this team’s body of work over the last four seasons.
“This has been a year of firsts,” Ozmint said. “Last year’s team got us close. They showed us how to win.
“This team has broken through all the limitations that were placed on them. They won 10 games. They won a playoff game. They won a playoff game at home.
“I’m proud of this bunch but we’ve still got work to do.”
The win is just the second playoff victory for Arab (2-10) and the first one at home. The Knights won 8-7 at Muscle Shoals in 2010.
Moody itself doesn’t have a rich playoff history (4-13), so its players are excited to make the trip to Arab. Moody beat Jasper after getting off to a slow start but then held on for the win.
“I was kind of nervous. I haven’t ever been in the playoffs,” said defensive back Chase Jackson, “It feels good. We still have to put our heads down and work. Nothing is going to be given to us.”
Moody trailed 7-0 after one quarter but then standout 5-foot-8 running back Blaine Burke took over. He scored on three straight drives, with runs of 10, 21 and 69 yards. He finished the night with 168 yards on 25 carries and the three TDs.
Another top player for the Blue Devils is 6-5, 260-pound offensive lineman Mason Myers, who has been selected to play in the North-South game in December.
John David Hall and Will Caneer will represent Arab in the game.
Ganus, like Ozmint, thinks Moody’s tough road is starting to pay dividends at just the right time.
“Playoff wins are tough,” he told the Trussville Tribune. “November football is what it’s about. You’ve got to find a way to win.
“We had a big chunk of our schedule where we could handle teams and do what we wanted to do.
“We faced adversity against Leeds. Our team is starting to mature in that area and the more adversity we face, the better we are. It’s win or go home.”
Leeds edged Moody 14-13 on Oct. 14 in a battle of unbeatens for the Region 6 crown.