BY SCOTT NICKERSON, SPORTS WRITER
The Alabama High School Athletic Association Playoffs are returning to Foshee-Henderson Stadium in Millbrook for the first time in nine years. With the 24-0 victory over Selma last Friday night, the Mustangs are assured to finish in the top 2 of the Class 6A Region 3 Standings. The reward is a home playoff game in the 1st round of Class 6A playoffs which begin November 8, 2019.
Having accomplished something no other Mustangs’ team has done in nine years by securing a home playoff berth, they will now set their sights on the goal of winning a region championship, something not done in 15 years since the 2004 football season. Stanhope Elmore will face Opelika Friday at home in a battle of teams that are unbeaten so far in Class 6A Region 3 play.
The game against Selma was the classic trap game for Stanhope Elmore. The Mustangs were coming off a huge win on the road against their biggest rival in Wetumpka, with a looming matchup the following week against powerhouse Opelika, currently ranked #8 in Class 6A. Coach Brian Bradford made sure his team did not have a letdown, with the defense providing a dominating performance. The defensive line in particular, led by TJ Jackson and William Whitlow, shut down the Selma offense, with the Saints never threatening to put points on the board.
The Stanhope Elmore offense easily moved down the field on the first drive of the game, with quarterback Andrew Rines completing two passes to Dalton Smith, and a 16-yard touchdown pass to Conner Bradford.
Selma failed to pick up a first down on their next possession, and a bad snap gave the Mustangs the ball inside the red zone. The Mustangs weren’t able to put the ball in the end zone and had to settle for a 41-yard field goal by kicker Dylan Presciti as time expired in the 1st quarter, to go up 10-0.
The Mustangs offense found a groove with their next drive in the 2nd quarter, with running back Tre Duncan picking up a 25-yard rush, before Rines threw for his second touchdown of the night, finding Tyler Wilson for a 15-yard score. The Mustangs led 17-0 with 8:00 left in the first half.
The final scoring drive of the night came in the waning moments of the 3rd quarter, when Duncan scored from 6 yards out to put the Mustangs up 24-0. Stanhope Elmore was able to get several backup players into the game in the 4th quarter to close out the game.
Rines finished the night 5-12 passing for 74 yards and 2 touchdowns. Rines now has six passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns this season. Duncan finished with 19 rushes for 130 yards and 1 touchdown, scoring his 7th touchdown this season, the 4th in the last three weeks.
Stanhope Elmore improves to 7-1 on the season, and 4-0 in Class 6A Region 3 play. Opelika is 6-1 on the season, coming off a 41-0 victory over Calera. Their only loss on the season was against the defending 7A state champions in Central-Phenix City.
Last year’s matchup between these two teams was a one-sided affair, with the Bulldogs whipping the Mustangs from the beginning of the game until the end, winning 59-21. The Mustangs will have a chance to not only avenge that embarrassing loss, but also capture the school’s first Region championship in football in 15 seasons. Come out and support the Mustangs in what will be one of the biggest games at Foshee-Henderson stadium in the last decade!