Game of the Week: Ardmore faces toughest test yet

Ardmore's Chris Allen runs with the ball after intercepting a pass against Tanner in the Tigers' opening game of the season. Allen has scored six total touchdowns this season and will lead the Tigers against Lawrence County in Friday night's game.

Ardmore has a chance to do something Friday night only one football team at the school has done in more than 50 years — start a season with four straight wins on the field.

The Tigers have taken three dominating wins to start the season, and a win Friday against Lawrence County will see them start 4-0 with four wins on the field for the second time since 1969.

Ardmore started 5-0 in 2013 and 2004, but one of those 2004 wins was a forfeit victory over Guntersville after having lost the game on the field 35-14. Ardmore's 2013 team is also the last Tigers squad to make the playoffs, finishing the season with a 6-5 record. The 2004 team also made the playoffs and finished the season with a 7-4 official record, while Ardmore's 1969 team began the season with five straight wins and finished with a 7-2 mark.

“There's a different buzz in the air,” Ardmore coach P.J. Wright said about the Tigers' 3-0 start. “It makes it fun to go to practice when you're winning. It's a different experience from what we've been through the past couple of years. It's a good, fun team to be around and coach because they do play hard and they practice hard, too. And that comes with being successful.”

But it's not just that Ardmore is winning games, it's the way they're winning. The Tigers have outscored their opponents 143-37, including last week's 48-7 Class 5A, Region 8 victory over Brewer in which the Tigers led 41-0 at halftime.

Friday's game is critical for Ardmore, as not only could the Tigers start the season 4-0, they could also begin region play 2-0 and give themselves a leg up on a playoff berth.

“Being in this region, if you can start off 2-0, I wouldn't say it guarantees you being a No. 4 seed, but it puts you really close to getting in,” Wright said. “Starting off 2-0 is going to be very important for us.”

In order to do that, Ardmore will have to defeat its toughest opponent of the season so far in Lawrence County.

Wright said the Red Devils are big on the offensive and defensive lines, similar to Tanner, who Ardmore played in their season opener. The Tanner game is the toughest one Ardmore has played so far. The Tigers won 42-18 but scored four defensive touchdowns and led just 23-18 at halftime against the Class 2A Rattlers.

“They're big like Tanner, but they've got more numbers (on the roster),” Wright said. “They've got a 300-pound offensive lineman and a 300-pound defensive lineman, and everybody else is 250-plus. They appear on film to be very strong, and they move well. It's going to take us a little bit of time to get into the game to figure them out.”

Wright said Ardmore will have to watch out for Lawrence County quarterback Brody Sparks, who has thrown for more than 500 yards and six touchdowns in the Red Devils' first two games of the season, tossing three scores in a 37-34 loss to Hazel Green and three more in a 31-28 win over West Point.

“Their quarterback is special,” Wright said. “He throws it well and also likes to bring the ball down and scramble. He's got four receiving weapons outside he likes to get the ball to. The running back (Gage Dutton) is the coach's son and a senior, and he's scary with the ball in his hands.”

Ardmore has its own all-purpose weapon in Chris Allen. Allen has scored touchdowns almost every way one can. He has two interception returns for touchdowns, a kickoff return touchdown, a punt return touchdown and two rushing touchdowns this season.

The game will kick off 7 p.m. Friday at Ardmore's Cooper Field.

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