Undefeated Mobile Christian hopes to continue its winning ways as the Leopards travel to Evergreen to meet the 5-1 Hillcrest Jaguars in a key 3A Region 1 match up Friday night.
Mobile Christian made it to the state championship game last season and has won 30 of the last 33 games. It is an unprecedented streak of success for the Leopards and Coach Ronnie Cottrell says that it is due to two primary factors. “We have great players who are great kids,” he said. “Plus they are really smart and love to play the game. We have also developed a cohesiveness that has really helped us.” The other factor is a simple fact of football. “We haven’t turned the ball over much. Over the last couple of years we have constantly been on the plus side of the turnover battle,” Cottrell explained. “That has really been big for us.”
The trip to the 3A state championship game that ended in a loss to Piedmont last December served as motivation for the Leopards during the summer. “It motivated us early. We knew this would be tough because we lost so many good players and we play in such a competitive region,” Cottrell said. “But right now we haven’t developed the leadership we had last season.”
Traveling to Evergreen to play Hillcrest is just one of the challenges in Region 1 according to Cottrell. “There are good teams in this region with good coaches. And there are tough places to play when you travel, and Evergreen is certainly one of them.”
The Jaguars have used a solid philosophy to success according to Cottrell. Good defense and good quarterback play from Ryan Nettles. The 6’4 quarterback has thrown for 1100 yards for Hillcrest this season.
Coach Clinton Smith of Hillcrest has a team that is still relatively young, but has varsity experience after playing last year during the Jags’ 5-7 season last fall. It has made a difference. So has defensive coordinator Mike Dean, an experienced head coach and DC who has brought Hillcrest a number of different looks in his defensive schemes. The defense has been stout, led by 6’0, 315 pound nose guard Rodney Bright and DB Kobe Bradley, a first team All State selection last year. Linebacker play by seniors Desmond Mitchell and Cortez Betts has been aggressive all year. The Jaguars have given up only 66 points in six games.
Smith understands the task in front of his team. “They are ranked number one for a reason,” he said. “We have to be able to run the ball and we have to try and find a way to handle Andres Fox.” Smith says the big DE has been dominant. The Hillcrest coach also believes that stopping elusive Eric Poellnitz, a 5’11, 164 pound junior, is the key to slowing down the Leopard offensive attack. “We have to play all four quarters. We haven’t played a complete game yet, ” said Smith. “We know this will not not be easy.”
A win by the home standing Hillcrest Jaguars will create a log jam at the top of the 3A Region 1 playoff race.