The Auburn High football team will try to take its first step toward a state championship Friday when the Tigers host Murphy in the first round of the 7A football playoffs at 7 p.m.
Despite completing a grueling 10-game regular-season schedule, Auburn High head coach Adam Winegarden thinks the Tigers are still developing and have room for improvement during the playoffs.
"I think a lot of times you get to the playoffs and people feel like their team is what it is," he said. "I think our team is still growing. I think we have improved throughout the year, and I think we still have a lot of room still for improvement and we need to improve this week so we can play our best on Friday."
Winegarden wants to see his team play consistent football over the course of the game against Murphy, a team the Tigers haven't faced since 2013, the year AHS made it to the state title game.
"In football, it’s a field-position game and we don’t want to give up big plays. We want to take care of the football, we want to have consistent drives, so just being a more consistent team is going to be big for us," said Winegarden. "It’s going to take extreme concentration from our team. They have a lot of weapons on offense, and they have speed on defense. So first of all, just mental execution of what their jobs are at each position, and then just play with everything they’ve got for four quarters."
Playing against solid region opponents, like Central-Phenix City and Lee, helped prepare the Tigers for what they'll face in the playoffs, Winegarden added.
"I think we have teams that are worthy of the playoffs that aren’t in the playoffs," he said.
Winegarden added that it's huge that the Tigers earned a first-round playoff game at home.
"There’s only eight teams that get a home playoff game to start off in 7A, so we’re thankful that we’re one of them," he said. "But it’s something our kids have earned, and we’re going to take advantage of it."