E.A. Sports Today

Business as usual

Madison Academy coach feels bad for Wellborn, but remains focused on ‘doing our job’

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

While the Wellborn football team is trying to recover from a massive body blow on the eve of its biggest game in years, its opponent is approaching Friday night’s Class 3A quarterfinal as business as usual.

Top-ranked and two-time reigning state champion Madison Academy has been focusing on Wellborn from the moment it dispatched Piedmont on a cold night in Madison last week.

But the tenor of that game changed dramatically Monday when the Panthers suspended six key players in the aftermath of a brawl immediately following the conclusion of last week’s second-round win over Oakman.

Madison Academy coach Eric Cohu entered the week expecting a “fast, physical, tough, relentless” Wellborn football team and what went down Monday hasn’t changed the Mustangs’ approach at all.

“The best approach for us is to handle everything as usual no matter what the situation,” Cohu said. “We’re kind of going in preparing for what we know Walter Wellborn does, no matter who their players are playing. If they change something up, we’ll have to adjust on the fly.”

The suspensions impact the Panthers in every phase of the game. The Mustangs, meanwhile, bring an offense to the game that features three SEC-caliber players. Running back Kerryon Johnson has committed to Auburn, 6-foot-8 tackle Austin Troxell has been offered by Auburn and back Malik Miller is weighing multiple options.

Johnson scored four touchdowns last week against Piedmont, including a 50-yard pick-six. He and Miller both rushed for more than 100 yards.

Wellborn principal Christopher Hayes expressed confidence Panthers coach Jeff Smith would devise a quality plan in the wake of the suspensions and the Panthers would give the Mustangs “all they’d want.” Smith said the suspended players’ spots will be occupied by their backups.

“It is an unusual situation to say the least, but there’s going to be a football game Friday night,” Cohu said. “Walter Wellborn is competitive, and the team that blocks and tackles the best is going to win the game.

“We have to approach it that way or otherwise we’re not doing what we normally do, and the key to our success is doing what we normally do, which is preparing for any opponent no matter the circumstance. I feel bad if that’s the case, losing that many players. It’s definitely a bad situation for Coach Smith and Wellborn, but on our end we have to focus on doing our job.”

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