E.A. Sports Today

A perfect 10

Saks completes 10-0 regular season, first undefeated regular season since 2013 and fourth in school history

Quarterback Dee Bell (2), conferring with coach Jonathan Miller and teammates during a time out, told his coaches when he arrived at Saks the Wildcats would be good his senior year. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

As strange as it sounds given the amount of time that passes between them to improve, there can be more uncertainly in a game Week 10 than there is in the season opener, and it’s for that reason Saks coach Jonathan Miller isn’t a big fan.

By that point in the year all the heavy lifting and jockeying in the regular season has been settled. A team’s approach to the upcoming playoffs or final-week tiebreaker — or just playing out the string — has a lot to do with its mindset for the game.

On the surface, Friday night’s Weaver-Saks game had all the makings of a playoff preview. Both teams were going to their respective playoffs – Saks at home in 4A, Weaver on the road in 3A — so it was set up to be a rousing affair.

But both teams took different approaches to the game. The Wildcats had perfection on their minds, got off to a fast start and cruised to a 51-12 victory that locked up their first undefeated regular season since 2013 and fourth unbeaten regular season in school history;

The Bearcats went home with their second lopsided loss in three games, happy to be playing another day.

To see a photo gallery from the game visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

“You never know what’s going to happen in these Week 10 games,” Miller said. “I hate Week 10. It’s uncertain in a different way. In Week 1 you’re trying to figure out your identity and who you are. In Week 10 if there’s no tiebreaker issue or whatever it’s basically a meaningless game between two teams.

“The unknown is more in Week 10 because you’ve completed your season pretty much, you know your playoff status so you’re trying to hopefully get your team in the right frame of mind to handle that. You’re trying to win a game, keep everybody from getting hurt and keep your team healthy going into the playoffs – and that’s tough to do.”

The Wildcats (10-0) didn’t seem to have any trouble on this night. They scored on their first six possessions — seven if you discount running the final snap of the first half – jumping out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter, 38-0 at halftime and 44-6 in the third quarter.

Quarterback Dee Bell, who walked off the field in last year’s Weaver loss costing him the chance to play in the playoffs, threw two touchdown passes to Amareea Abney in the first quarter and rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Johnathan Cobb rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns.

The Saks defense, meanwhile, held Weaver to minus-57 yards net rushing in the first half. The Bearcats (6-4), who used the game to prepare for a first-round playoff opponent that’s similar offensively to Saks, were so far in the hole even Shamar Spinks’ 49-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter couldn’t get them out.

That didn’t come until Caleb Allison’s 15-yard touchdown run later in the quarter.

“I think the only way to get better is learning from playing better teams and this was definitely a good chance for us to play a better team and learn from it,” said Weaver coach Daryl Hamby, who expects both teams to go far in their respective playoffs. “I like the way we didn’t hang our heads the second half and kept playing. That’s the main thing, shows a lot of character.

“We always are trying to win the game, but things just didn’t work out for us. What we said is don’t look at the score, just keep playing and let’s see how we play it. I was real proud of the way they played in the second half.”

By then the issue of the night was settled and the Wildcats could settle into their place in history. They also went 10-0 in 2013, Miller’s second season at the helm. It’s their first run at perfection in a generation. Jack Stewart went 8-0-1 in 1971 and 9-0 in 1968.

“For us just being a part of history for our school and trying to continue to build and grow the legacy that other guys have left is nice,” Miller said. “It’s a big deal for our kids to accomplish going through a season undefeated. That’s not easy to do. You’re going to have games where you have to get through them. You’re not playing your best and you’ve got to get through them. We’ve done that in a few games.”

Friday night was not one of them. In fact, some of the players said it was one of the cleanest games they’ve played this year.

“This is what we’ve been working for,” Bell said. “The first time I came here I told my coach our senior year we’re going to be pretty good. At the beginning of the season a lot of people didn’t think we would be like this. A lot of people doubted us. We used that as momentum to keep building up and working as a team.”

The last time the Wildcats had a team that went through the regular season undefeated they went all the way to the state semifinals. The common denominator between the teams is both had a dynamic quarterback – Trey Smith (2013) and Bell – and both played lights-out defense.

“I see a lot of similarities between the two teams,” Miller said. “I think almost at every position is very similar. Both offensive lines were very, very good; ’13 may have been our best ever offensive line, but this group right here – we’re not through with the season – is right there on their heels.

“The two quarterbacks, that’s self-explanatory and they both have weapons around them. There’s a ton of similarities between them.”

[table id=88 /]

Weaver 0 0 12 0 — 12
Saks 28 10 6 7 — 51

S – Amareea Abney 53 pass from Dee Bell (Anthony Cornejo kick), 10:32 1Q
S – Dee Bell 5 run (Anthony Cornejo kick), 6:25 1Q
S – Johnathan Cobb 1 run (Anthony Cornejo kick), 3:42 1Q
S – Amareea Abney 30 pass from Dee Bell (Anthony Cornejo kick), 1:05 1Q
S – Johnathan Cobb 8 run (Anthony Cornejo kick), 5:27 2Q
S – Anthony Cornejo 22 FG, 0:34 2Q
W – Shamar Spinks 49 run (PAT failed), 10:04 3Q
S – Dee Bell 44 run (kick failed), 6:46 3Q
W – Caleb Allison 15 run (PAT failed), 0:58 3Q
S – Tre Gibbs 8 run (Allston McLaughlin kick), 6:42 4Q

The Saks defense wraps up Weaver’s Shamar Spinks. The undefeated Wildcats held Weaver to negative rushing yardage through much of the first three quarters.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login