The Auburn High defense has pitched two shutouts in the first two rounds of the playoffs in a 33-0 win over Murphy and last week's 26-0 blanking of McGill-Toolen.
That's the result of all phases of the team working together, said Auburn High coach Adam Winegarden.
"I think it’s just we’ve played more consistent football the past few weeks, and that’s across the board — offense, defense and the kicking game," he said. "Obviously, we’ve played really well on defense, but our special teams and offense has also protected our defense with field position. We always say to score a lot of points, the defense and special teams have got to play well, and to hold people to few points, your offense and kicking game have to play well."
The defense's task will get much tougher this Friday when the Tigers clash for the second time this season with region champion and rival Central-Phenix City, which is coming off a dominating 45-7 performance against Prattville in the second round. The Red Devils defeated the Tigers 34-7 in late October.
"I think there’s always things you learn anytime you play somebody once, but at the same time we play each other every year, so we know that they have a tremendous program and a great team and they’re defending state champions," Winegarden said. "At the end of the day, we know we’ve got our work cut out for us, but at the same time we’re really excited about playing the game."
Winegarden attibuted the Tigers late-season surge and chemistry to the players' "tremendous attitudes" and eagerness to play well and play for each other.
"I think when you do that over time, you get better and you play better more consistently," he said. "But past success doesn’t equal future success, nor does failure, so we’ve got to show up ready to play."
There's no mentality of payback or revenge for the Tigers, but just a desire to keep playing and make it to the state championship, added Winegarden.
"We’ve got to play our game," he said. "Our thing is we’re not going to play their game; we’re going to play our game. With that, football is football, and we’ve got to be able to tackle well and block well and be where we’re supposed to be to have a chance."
Winegarden also noted the importance of the senior leadership on the team for the playoffs and the entire season.
"Our senior leadership’s been great," he said. "They’ve had a real steady head on their shoulders all season and have been realistic about where we are as a team and what we need to do. They haven’t gotten too high or low based on the results, and I think that’s helped us to consistently improve."
The Tigers and Red Devils will kick off in Central-Phenix City at 7 p.m. Friday. The winner of the game will face either Hoover or Thompson in the Super 7 Finals at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4 in Jordan-Hare Stadium.