The road has been good for the Glenwood Gators this football season.
The Gators (8-2) are unbeaten in five games playing at sites other than Sammy Howard Field, aka The Swamp. But Glenwood has rarely faced a challenge like the one it faces Friday night, when it travels across state to play Tuscaloosa Academy in the first-round of the Alabama Independent School Association Class AAA playoffs.
The Knights are 10-1 and fifth in the Alabama Sports Writers Association rankings, one spot ahead of Glenwood. Gators coach Chris Holmes believes his team is confident and ready for the playoff opener.
Glenwood is one of two local Alabama teams opening the playoffs on the road Friday. Smiths Station will travel to Prattville to play the No. 1-ranked Lions in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A playoffs. Kickoff for both games is at 8 p.m.
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"We're excited. It's a big game for us," Glenwood coach Chris Holmes said. "They're 10-1 with a very good coach (Wayne Brantley). The coach that's there is formerly the coach at Landmark Christian in Georgia. He's had a lot of success."
The Knights are adept in both the passing and running game, led by quarterback Jeremiah Tullidge. Tullidge the leads West Alabama prep schools in several passing statistics according to published reports.
"They like to throw the ball but they're very capable of running it as well," Holmes said. "They have a big fullback they like to run with and their quarterback is the best athlete on the team. They've been averaging right about 45 points a game in the last few weeks."
Tuscaloosa Academy lost in the third week of the season, but has reeled off eight wins in a row. "They lost to Bessemer, the two-time defending champion," Holmes said. "They had the ball on Bessemer's 2-yard line when time expired. They're a very solid team. We have our work cut out for us, but we feel good about it."
Glenwood has also been hot lately. The Gators lost two of their first four games, but the team has been on a roll recently with six consecutive wins going into the first-round of the playoffs.
"Everything's going pretty well. If you've won six in a row, which we have, you begin to feel a little better about yourself than you were at the beginning of the year when you were 2-2," Holmes said. "We feel pretty good about the direction we're going in. We had two pretty good days of practice."
The Gators have been led by the all-around talents of Arthur Williams, Dudley Taylor and Marcus Woods. Williams, who has committed to Middle Tennessee State outside of Nashville, scored on a 70-yard pass from Taylor during last week's victory over Lakeside Academy.
Woods is one of the better runners in the Chattahoochee Valley with 1,206 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Gators.
"We've been very focused this week. The players have gone out there with a workman attitude," Holmes said. "We're 5-0 on the road and this point I don't think going on the road is going to bother us."
Smiths Station (6-4), the fourth qualifier from 6A Region 3, has the tall task of traveling to Prattville to play the 8-1 Lions on Stanley-Jenson Field where Prattville has won 21 consecutive games. The Lions defense has shut out six opponents this season.
The Panthers will continue to rely on its ground game, led by quarterback Cody Hussey and running backs Robert Frinks and Chris Whitehorn. Coach Mark Rose could not be reached for comment.