After clinching region title, Mustangs will be tested before getting into playoffs

In his poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Robert Frost wrote, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

Madison Academy’s win over West Morgan that clinched the Class 3A, Region 8 regular season championship gave the Mustangs (6-2, 6-0 in the region) a moment to cherish. However, the team’s main goal awaits seven games away in the state final.

With two games remaining in the regular season, Madison Academy, ranked sixth in the state last week, will face teams that have also qualified for the playoffs.

Region rival Colbert County (6-2, 4-2) and second-ranked Class 4A power Central-Clay County will present the types of competition the Mustangs can expect to face when the postseason opens in two weeks.

Mustangs coach Eric Cohu realizes the importance of keeping the team’s focus and intensity level high.

“The biggest thing is (the players) have to realize we are playing to real good football teams,” Cohu said. “Champions rise to the occasion.”

Cohu noted Colbert County’s rich football history. Although the Indians had three straight losing seasons entering 2012, they have been winners much more often than not. Entering the season, Colbert County had won six state championships, 21 region titles and reached the postseason 35 times. The Indians had a 30-year streak of making the playoffs snapped last year, when they finished 3-7.

First-year Colbert County coach Dale Jeffreys has quickly turned the Indians around. The team started 5-0 before back-to-back losses took them out of the race for the region title. Jeffreys spent the previous 15 years as the head coach at Red Bay where he compiled a 114-59 record and won four region titles.

In addition to the tough teams ahead on the schedule, injuries have presented another concern for Cohu. Four defensive starters missed the West Morgan game and another player saw limited action. Taylor Ziak, Taylor Kelley, Malik Miller and Chandler Trach did not play against the Rebels. LaMarkus Martin played briefly in the first half.

Cohu expects all of them to be available for the playoffs but they will be evaluated week to week.

Despite having a banged up team and the region title and home field to start the playoffs in hand, Cohu said all healthy players will be needed in the remaining regular season games.

“We have to use everybody,” Cohu said. “They’ve got to have reps. We really can’t let up. It’s time to turn it on.”