AVON PARK - For the Avon Park Red Devils, despite starting the season 0-7, any playoff hopes will hinge on tonight's Class 4A-District 6 game against LaBelle at Joe Franza Stadium.
First-year Avon Park coach Wade Jackson knew that the first part of the season was going to be rough, but also recognized that in the second half of the schedule they would face teams they should be able to compete with, more importantly they are district games.
Jackson made a decision this week to bring up five players from the junior varsity squad to help the defense and bring more speed to the team.
"They have looked real good in practice," said Jackson. "They have brought a spark to the team."
All five freshmen are slated to have significant playing time with three starting in tonight's game against LaBelle.
"It helps us in having some guys on defense that do not have to play offense," said Jackson. "They bring some good speed, maybe not as strong as the varsity, but pure athletic kids. They are excited and ready to play."
Though Jackson quantified that he was a little disappointed in some of the games that they have played and the way they have at played at times, he sees his team building confidence as they head into tonight's game.
"Practice has been great and the players attitudes have been great," the Red Devil coach said. "We just have to step, make some plays and score some points."
Scoring points has been a luxury that the Red Devils have not enjoyed much of this year as they are averaging less than six points a game and giving up more than 40.
With Alfred Brown starting his second game at quarterback last week against Hardee, Avon Park put together an impressive first drive that resulted in no points and was quickly shut down for the remainder of the game by the Wildcats.
The LaBelle Cowboys should provide more opportunity for the Red Devils to taste the fruits of touchdown nectar as they have been giving up nearly 38 points a game.
Avon Park will need to accomplish this as LaBelle, regardless of their 2-5 record, average about 21 points a game and scored over 48 points in two games, including a 59-32 win over Lake Placid.
LaBelle also has not been shut out all season.
When asked about the Lake Placid game, Jackson noted that in watching the tape, that LaBelle capitalized on Lake Placid mistakes. Mistakes, he noted, that they need to eliminate in tonight's game.
Offensively, Jackson stated that LaBelle will line up in various formations to include the pro right and pro left. They also run a power option to both sides and like to throw quick screens and knows that the defense will have to be aware of all possibilities.
LaBelle should provide the perfect measuring stick for Jackson and his young team. In the past two years, these two teams have split with Avon Park winning 21-14 in 2011 and LaBelle winning last year 14-0.
What is Jackson looking for from his team tonight? The answer was simple: winning.
"That is the only thing we've got on our mind." Jackson said, "We have done everything else, it is time to stop making the little mistakes. We have to get past those things, put some points on the board and win."
Tonight's game against LaBelle kicks off at 7:30.
LaBelle at Avon Park
Where: Joe Franza Stadium
When: Tonight at 7:30