West Limestone football coach Shelby Davis didn't hesitate when asked if Gordo was going to be the toughest opponent the Wildcats have faced this season.
“No doubt, they're the best team we've played,” Davis said. “When you talk about getting into the third round of the playoffs, you're going to see a really good team. There is no doubt, this will be our biggest challenge.”
West Limestone (11-1) advanced to the quarterfinal round of the Class 4A playoffs after defeating Good Hope 21-12 last Friday. Gordo, also 11-1, has rolled to two relatively easy playoff wins, defeating Brooks 41-12 in the first round and Oneonta 39-21 in last Friday's second round.
The game will take place tonight instead of the usual Friday night. Gordo's stadium is being renovated, and the school has shared a venue with Pickens County this season. Pickens County, a Class 1A school, has a home playoff game scheduled for Friday night, which forced Gordo to move its game to Thursday.
Davis said Gordo is loaded with weapons all over the field, starting with quarterback Tanner Bailey, who has offers from six Southeastern Conference schools.
“Their quarterback is going to be a Power 5 (conference) quarterback, and it's not like he doesn't have anybody to throw it to,” Davis said. “They've got a couple of kids who are Division I wide receivers. And then those receivers turn around and play in the secondary on defense. They've also got five seniors across the (offensive) line, which is pretty rare and special, especially for a 4A school.”
Davis said he knows his team is in for a tough battle, but it's a battle they relish.
“It's a tough challenge, but the kids are excited and fired up,” he said. “I feel like we've got a good plan. Anything can happen at this point.”
West Limestone has enjoyed a historic season to this point. The Wildcats won only their second region championship in school history and also advanced past the second round of the playoffs for the second time in school history. Their 11 wins is second-most in school history, behind only the 1988 team, which finished the season 12-3 and advanced to the Class 4A state championship game.
Davis said the team's success this season isn't surprising considering the work the players have put in beginning in the summer.
“This team has just really worked hard in the offseason,” he said. “Hammering the weights, doing the extra things that nobody wants to do. This team wants to get up at six in the morning and get that workout before school. They have all day to recover and then come back to practice. That shows you a testament to where this team is at and what they're willing to do.”
In a season where many teams across the state have had to cancel games or play without a multitude of players due to COVID-19 outbreaks, West Limestone has been a picture of stability. The Wildcats were able to play all 10 of their regular-season games plus two playoff games without any COVID-19 scares among team members.
Davis said that is just another example of the discipline his players have, which is one reason this season has been such a success.
“(This season) means that much to them for them to sacrifice some of the things they normally wouldn't want to sacrifice,” Davis said. “They've done a good job of staying in what I call our bubble. Hanging out with only our guys on the team and not putting themselves in bad situations where they could possibly mess it up for someone else. There is no selfishness or animosity within this team.”