E.A. Sports Today

Panthers aim at history

Wellborn looking to get past second round for first time since 1995

By Chad Barnett
East Alabama Sports Today

It’s no secret the Wellborn Panthers have been on a solid run over the last six years. The Panthers have made the playoffs each of those seasons and advanced to the second round each of the last four.

While the run has been impressive for a school with four one-win seasons during the five years prior to the current run, the Panthers (7-3) are looking to get past that second-round hump.

Friday night, in front of a home crowd on The Hill, the eighth-ranked Oakman Wildcats are the only thing standing between this Wellborn team and history.

“Yeah we talk about it … we talk about it a lot,” Panthers coach Jeff Smith said. “I met with the seniors on Monday and told them what’s going on. They knew. They already knew the significance.”

The void goes much further back than the current class. The last time the Panthers advanced past the second round, none of the players on today’s roster were even alive. It was 19 years ago when they last made the third round and they’ve done it only four times in school history (1978, 1988, 1989 and 1995).

Oakman (10-1) brings a spread offense to the table with playmakers at a number of positions. The Wildcats have put up at least 35 points in all except one game this season. They’ve scored 47 or more eight times and broke the 60-point plateau twice. They have won six in a row since a 14-6 loss to Cordova.

“You don’t get to the second round by being a bad team,” Smith said. “The biggest thing is that we’ll have to be more physical (than them). I feel like if we’re more physical we’ll win the game.”

Despite two of his team’s 2014 losses coming at the hands of spread teams — Saks and Piedmont — Smith believes his Panthers have the team speed on defense to match up with the Wildcats.

If they can bring their trademark physical style to the field Friday, the Panthers should dance a little farther this year and watch their program take the next step beyond what already has been a great run.

“I think it’s a credit to our program, but it’s time to take the next step,” Smith said. “They definitely want it. They want to be a part of history.”


While Smith wasn’t concerned with speaking about future opponents, I’ll take the liberty of looking ahead for him.

The playoffs are shaking out just as planned so far. The top three teams in Class 3A Region 6 (Glencoe, Piedmont and Wellborn) have advanced to the second round proving this was one the best regions in the state. Right now, they represent three of 16 teams left in the state. Another win and things will start to look familiar.

If Wellborn beats Oakman and Piedmont gets revenge on Madison Academy for last year’s 34-33 overtime playoff loss, the Panthers will have a chance to avenge their mid-season loss to Piedmont in the third round. Glencoe, meanwhile, is favored to knock off Lauderdale County at home Friday night.

Chad Barnett covers high school football for “Pigskin Roundup.” Read his observations on the week that was in Calhoun County football every week at East Alabama Sports Today.

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