For teams, District 7-1A a tough test
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 5, 2012 at 12:19 a.m.
Newberry football coach Chris Baker called it vicious, with Chiefland coach Aaron Richardson describing it as brutal.
A closer look
The District 7-1A race expects to be a tight one that might not be decided until the second to last week of the season.
Here are the remaining district games for each team:
Friday- Union County (5-0, 1-0) at Dixie County (4-1, 1-0); Newberry (3-2, 0-0) at Chiefland (4-1,0-1)
Oct. 19- Union County at Baldwin; Dixie County at Newberry
Oct. 25- Baldwin at Newberry
Oct. 26- Chiefland at Dixie County
Nov. 2- Newberry at Union County; Baldwin at Chiefland
Union County coach Ronny Pruitt said it is unforgiving, while Dixie County coach Brent Wilkerson compared it to playing in the SEC, where there is no week off.
That's how four of the area's football coaches look at playing in District 7-1A.
On paper, it is the toughest district in the state in Class 1A, with three of the five teams in the district, all from the area, ranked in the top four in the AP's most recent state poll.
Union County (5-0) is No. 2, followed by Dixie County (4-1) at No. 3 and Chiefland (4-1) at No. 4. Newberry (3-2) and Baldwin (3-2) round out the division, which will send two teams (the district champion and runner-up) to the regional playoffs next month.
After tonight, there is likely to be a shake-up in the district standings and in the state poll. Although it is just the second week of district play for the five teams, this evening's results will definitely have an effect on how the race will shape up and, ultimately, its finish.
Highlighting the slate is Union County travelling to Dixie County. Both the Tigers and Bears enter the contest with 1-0 district marks as they battle for the district driver's seat. The other matchup is equally critical and features Newberry heading to Chiefland. It is the district opener for the Panthers, while the Indians (0-1) look to even their district mark and avoid an uphill climb the rest of the way.
Baldwin, which suffered a 16-6 home loss to Dixie County two weeks ago, returns to district action when it hosts defending district champion Union County in two weeks. The Indians were the runners-up a year ago.
“Everybody in this district can beat each other on any given night,” Baker said. “Wins are very precious when you have a situation like that, because who knows how this is going to end?”
That of course is the main question everyone would like the answer to. Getting to that answer won't be easy for the players each week, either.
“We'll beat up one another,” said Richardson, who is off to a great start in his first year at Chiefland after inheriting a team that had lost 23 straight games. “It is tough as far as winning the games and the physical nature of the game. It is a physical, brutal battle.”
The area teams in the district primarily rely on its running game with some passing mixed in to go along with its defense as its formula for success. That is cause for concern for the others.
“Defensively they have some beasts,” said Wilkerson about a Union County team that his Bears last defeated in 2003. “They are well coached and they are tough to move the ball against.
“I think it is going to be like some of those games back in 2003 and 2004. We had some wars.”
The Tigers, state semifinalists a year ago, look to put themselves in good shape for a return playoff trip and possible playoff run.
“They (Dixie County) are big fast and physical,” Pruitt said. “On film they really don't have any weak spots.
“I think any one of these five teams could make it deep into the playoffs. If you come up and have a bad district game, the opportunities to get back in it are not going to be there.”
That is the challenge Chiefland faces this evening as the Indians look to build off of its early season success. The Indians are the area's last team to win a football state title, claiming the Class 2A crown in 1997.
“It is hard to say that it is a must-win this early in this district schedule, be we can't afford to stumble,” Richardson said. “It is a must win for us to be able to control our own destiny.”
Chiefland which last reached the postseason in 2004, is looking to knock off the Panthers for the first time since 2002.
“It is a big football game. District games are what you play for,” Baker said. “You have to get to the playoffs and these are the games that get you there.”