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Quitman, West to battle in area game

QUITMAN, WEST TO BATTLE IN AREA GAME

Quitman High School may be 2-4, but West Lauderdale High School football coach Stan McCain said it wouldn’t be a good idea to buy into that number. For one thing, the 0-4 start the Panthers got off to was against teams with a combined record of 15-5. For another, the Panthers have won two straight heading into tonight’s matchup, so McCain said his team needs to expect strong competition when Quitman comes to Collinsville. “Don’t be fooled, they have a good football team,” McCain said. “We don’t look at records, we look at film, and their size and athletic ability jumps off at you. They can all run, and they play hard. They’re much-improved over last year, and we had a hard time handling them last year (a 21-7 Knights win).” Anyone who has followed Quitman football under coach Steve Bynum knows the early season record can be a bit misleading, as he typically schedules strong teams for his non-divisional schedule, even if playing those opponents puts his team at a competitive disadvantage. There’s no filling his schedule with cupcakes, Bynum explained. “We’ve never done that since I’ve been here,” Bynum said. “We play the toughest schedules to be ready for when we do get to division — so we know where we are. It’s better to play good teams and make mistakes than to play bad teams and think you’re perfect until you play a good team. I take a lot of criticism for the schedule, but it always pays off in the long run.” Things won’t get any easier for the Panthers this week, though, as West Lauderdale enters tonight’s contest a perfect 6-0. “They’re disciplined,” Bynum said. “They’re probably one of the best-disciplined teams we’ll face. They don’t make mistakes; they have very few penalties per ball game. They limit turnovers, and their defense doesn’t give up many big plays.” In addition to telling his players not to pay attention to Quitman’s record, McCain said he’s also told his players not to pay attention to their own record, as Region 5-4A play is what determines playoff seeding, not what they’ve accomplished up to this point. “We’ve basically told them the 6-0 deal is over and done with,” McCain said. “That’s just preseason stuff. As far as we’re all concerned, we’re 0-0, and everyone else is, too. If you lay an egg now, it won’t be good, so 6-0 won’t be relevant at the end of the year.” West Lauderdale enters regional play with the best schedule of all the teams in the division, but Bynum said he’s not too concerned with facing the better team early or late in the area portion of the season. “That’s why we play top-caliber teams early,” Bynum said. “If we do play a team like West Lauderdale that’s sitting at 6-0 and ranked No. 4, we’ve already faced a team like Laurel. Not that they’re similar in play, but we’ve played similar-caliber teams to get us ready for that.” Health is one area where West Lauderdale has gotten lucky so far, McCain said, and he hopes that continues as the gauntlet of the season continues. “We’re healthy for the most part, and we’ve been healthy all year so far,” McCain said. “These games will test if you can stay healthy. It’s certain we’ll have a bunch of bumps and bruises come Saturday.” Momentum also matters, and Bynum said it was nice to enter tonight’s game with a two-game winning streak in hand. “That’s a lot better than last year,” said Bynum, referring to his team’s winless record in non-area play in 2015. “We were really struggling with a young group, but we got two wins. Practice has been exciting. The kids have been working hard, and a lot of good things happened today.”

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