When Shelby Davis was hired as West Limestone's football coach in 2018, he was given a charge to lead the Wildcats to competing for a region championship and a playoff run within five years.
Forget the five-year plan. Davis and the Wildcats were able to do it in three. West Limestone were undefeated in Class 4A, Region 8, and won only the second region championship in program history.
“That's a testament to our kids buying in and working hard,” Davis said. “It's big for the community.”
The Wildcats (9-1) will host Region 5 No. 4 seed Hamilton (5-5) Friday night in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
West Limestone hadn't made the playoffs since 2017 but rolled through the region with a 7-0 record, including victories over Deshler and Brooks, the first time the Wildcats had ever beaten both of those two teams in the same season.
West Limestone's only loss was a 31-17 defeat to Class 5A East Limestone, but the Wildcats recovered from that by winning their final five games.
Davis said the players set a goal before the season to win the region championship and made sure they worked hard during the year to make that happen.
“Their willingness to work, to do whatever it takes to win, has been the difference,” Davis said of his team. “They work hard and do all the little things. A lot of people can talk about it, but it's hard to be about it.”
The Wildcats barely missed the playoffs last year, but this season has been a different story, as the players have grown closer throughout the years.
“They really know each other well,” Davis said. “They kind of lean on each other and know each other's strengths and weaknesses. This team has really jelled together.”
It's not a team with one superstar and a bunch of role players. While receiver River Helms gets most of the attention as a potential Division I college recruit, many different players have stepped up in each game, especially those games where Helms is neutralized by being double or triple-teamed.
“The kids are always ready for their moment,” Davis said. “They stay ready, and whenever it's their turn, they're ready to go in there and willing and ready to make the plays.”
Hamilton might have a mediocre record, but Davis said they run an offense that isn't seen very much, which the Wildcats have been spending this week preparing to stop.
“They run a wing-T out of the pistol (formation),” he said. “I've only seen it once before, and that was a first-round playoff game several years ago. We have to make sure we are prepared for the different things we're going to see. I feel like we've got a good game plan; it's just about going in and executing.”