The New Brockton Gamecocks (5-5) will head south 3 1/2 hours to Mobile to do battle with the Class 2A No. 4-ranked St. Lukes Wildcats (8-1) Friday night in the first round of the Class 2A State Playoffs.
The Wildcats are the Class 2A, Region 1 Champions and have reeled off five consecutive wins after falling to Georgiana earlier this season.
St. Lukes is the third Class 2A Top 10 school and fifth overall Top 10 team the Gamecocks have faced this season in one of the state’s toughest schedules.
St. Lukes’ hybrid spread/single-wing offense has averaged a staggering 45 points per game. The Wildcats have scored more than 41 points in all but two games this season.
“They’re a good team with really good team speed,” New Brockton coach Justin Jones said. “They have a good quarterback that’s really athletic. They do a good job of making sure the right players touch the football.”
St. Lukes quarterback Jermaine Brown has passed for 1,153 yards, 14 touchdowns and just five interceptions through the air, but he may be most deadly on the ground. Brown has rushed for more than 1,400 yards and an eye-popping 20 touchdowns while averaging more than eight yards per carry.
“We’re going to have to do a good job keeping them hemmed up on defense and getting them off the field on third down,” Jones said. “They want to get their athletes in space and when you have three or four linebackers running free it makes it a lot easier to get them down.”
Those linebackers that Jones hopes to see running free on the New Brockton defense are seniors Wyatt Grice and Chase Cardwell along with sophomores Josh Cardwell and Jake Holloway.
Those four New Brockton linebackers have been among the most active players on the Gamecock defense all season and will be a key factor for the New Brockton defense.
“I think coming into the season those guys were some of our better football players, and they have to do a good job on our defense for us to be successful,” Jones said. “When runners get to our linebackers they have to make the tackle and those guys have done a pretty good job of that this year.
“They’ll have to do a great job this week for us to have success, too. We’re going to try and keep linemen off of them so they can move around and make plays.”
Chase Cardwell leads the Gamecock defense with 97 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery this season, while Grice has added 73 tackles, one sack, five quarterback hurries, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. Josh Cardwell has totaled 52 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Holloway has 72 tackles and two quarterback hurries this season. All four linebackers have tallied more than 10 tackles on multiple occasions, with Chase Cardwell recording more than 10 tackles on five occasions.
Another key for the Gamecocks will be keeping the football away from the St. Lukes offense with a consistent New Brockton offense.
“We have to move the chains on offense and pick up first downs, first downs, first downs and then touchdowns,” Jones said. “Keep them off the field so we don’t put too much pressure on our defense.”
Quarterback turned receiver Dalton Adkison will likely be a huge factor for a New Brockton offense that wants to pound on the St. Lukes defense. Adkison has tallied 708 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing with 144 yards and three touchdowns receiving in just six games this season. Running back Drew Simon has also been a star for the Gamecock offense with 144 carries for 767 yards and eight touchdowns.
While the 3 1/2 hour road trip may seem to be a difficult task, Jones believes his team will have no issues handling it.
“We’ve done this before,” Jones said. “We’ve been all across the state, so it won’t be anything different for most of our kids. It’s part of playoff football and at some point you’re going to have to travel a long way if you’re in the playoffs.”
Though 160 miles may separate New Brockton and St. Lukes but they also share two common opponents this season in Georgiana and Luverne, which Jones will be an advantage.
“Film study is big but we do have some common opponents, too,” Jones said. “That’s helped out tremendously to give us an idea of their team speed and things like that.”