After finishing the regular season with an 8-2 record, including going 5-1 and finishing second in the region, Auburn High and head coach Keith Etheredge are preparing for the first round of the 2021 state playoffs.
The Tigers will open the postseason at home against the Baker High School Hornets, who finished third their region.
“It’s definitely important (to have a home playoff game),” Etheredge said. “We talked about that at the beginning of the year. Getting home field advantage in the playoffs is huge, especially in those first rounds when a lot of times you have to travel from a little ways away.”
Auburn High is coming off a 27–17 loss to prep powerhouse IMG Academy, but the final score was not indicative of the performance that the Tigers put up. Led by impressive play from quarterback Clyde Pittman and a stout defensive effort, Auburn High was leading IMG Academy for nearly two-thirds of the game. A late fumble in the fourth quarter set up a go-ahead touchdown for the Ascenders, who scored another touchdown late in the game.
“I think that we learned a lot from our kids,” Etheredge said. “They’re not going to quit, they’re not going to back down from anybody. Our kids played their hearts out."
On the other sideline, Baker possesses a 7-3 record from the regular season, including a 13–0 win over UMS-Wright Prep that gave the Bulldogs their only loss of the season. Of the three schools that Baker lost this season, those schools combined for a total of three losses. Two of Baker’s losses were on the road to Pine Forest in Florida and against Fairhope, with one home loss being five-point setback to Theodore.
“They have a lot of athletes, their kids play hard and they’re well coached,” Etheredge said of Baker. “We’ve definitely got to find certain people on each and every play, and make sure that we don’t let them get the big plays.”
Baker put up 50 points last week against Davidson, with sophomore quarterback Josh Flowers throwing for over 200 yardsand four touchdowns. The Hornets can air the ball out, which will be something to watch for against an Auburn secondary that held its own against IMG Academy in the pass game last week.
“They’ve certainly hurt people with big plays,” Etheredge said.
Now in a win-or-go-home mentality, Etheredge is relying on some of his older players with playoff experience to step up into bigger roles with the state championship on the line.
“Absolutely, you want those guys to (step up),” Etheredge said. “You’ve got guys like Camden (Etheredge), Bradyn Joiner; those guys have won state championships at other schools they’ve been at, so you rely on those guys.
“Those juniors and sophomores from last year’s team who are seniors and juniors this year that have that experience, you’re definitely going to rely heavily on those guys. Powell Gordon, Brad Harper, Carson Yancy, Nasir Pogue, Joe Frazier. You got some juniors who started as sophomores last year, like Avery Ferris, you rely on those guys hard.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Duck. The winner will move on to face the winner of the Fairhope-Enterprise game.
“You’re not promised next Friday,” Etheredge said. “So, you leave it all on the field this Friday.”