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Phil Campbell seeking second straight win over rival Phillips

With a season-opening rout of Tharptown now buried beneath four consecutive losses, Phil Campbell would like nothing more than to turn its season around by beating rival Phillips for a second straight season.

Head coach Ryan Swinney knows it won’t be easy.

“They’re not bad at all,” Swinney said of the Bears, who turned their own season around the past two weeks with blowout wins over Vina and Shoals Christian following an 0-3 start. “They’re a physical team. Their quarterback is a good athlete, and their running back has some speed. They get after you. I’m pretty impressed. They block hard, and on defense they get after the ball pretty good.

"Athlete-wise, they might not be up there with Lamar County and Sulligent, but as far as matching up with us, they’ll do fine. They’re a really good team.”

Phil Campbell survived a mid-game lull to beat Phillips 35-20 last season at home, snapping a streak of five straight losses to the Bears. Phillips has won seven of nine meetings since the series resumed in 2006 following a 23-year hiatus.

“They’ll be confident, I’m sure,” Swinney said. “Last year was the first time we’d beaten them in a few years, and the game’s at their place this time. It’s definitely gonna be a challenge. Like I told our boys, if we’ll keep the same intensity and play the same way we played last week, we’ve got a chance. But if we get out there and start making mistakes and taking plays off, they’ll beat our tails in a hurry.”

The Bobcats (1-4) lost 35-6 to unbeaten Sulligent last week in a game that was 13-0 at the half. Senior quarterback Peyton Thomas went 29-for-37 and completed at least three passes to five different receivers, but he threw for only 188 yards. As a team, Phil Campbell rushed for just 14 yards.

“We don’t really have that type of guy who can take it to the house from anywhere,” said Swinney, whose team is averaging 17.2 points and 269.8 total yards of offense per game. “We were more athletic last year. Right now, we don’t have a guy that’s gonna break it from the backfield and take it sixty yards or a receiver who can beat somebody down the field with that type of speed. We have to methodically move the ball down the field, and in that situation you can’t afford to make any mistakes or give up a sack or anything like that.

“Our guys caught the ball well the other night. We only had one ball that should have been caught that was dropped. We had a lot of different people get involved. We didn’t have any success running the ball, so we just spread it out and tried to dink and dunk our way down the field. We did a pretty good job of it.”

Brandon Thomas led the Bobcats last week with six catches for 54 yards. Sophomore Ben Williams caught three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown, and senior tight end Brody Nix had six catches for 25 yards. Senior Daniel Smith and freshman Ridge Raper (filling in for injured starter Brandon Baker) each caught four passes for 27 yards.

“Ridge stepped in at H-back and did a great job,” Swinney said. “He caught several passes and also played some safety for us. He played in Brandon’s spot on defense, too.”

As of Sunday afternoon, Baker was still working his way through concussion protocol. He and sophomore fullback/defensive end Imer Ordonez (ankle) are both questionable for Friday night’s game at Phillips, and Swinney said senior lineman Caleb Hagood (a two-way starter) will miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.

If the Bobcats are to beat the Bears for a second straight year, they’ll have to do it short-handed.

“They haven’t won many games, and we haven’t won many games,” Swinney said. “It’s an important game for us. Getting back on the winning side could really build some confidence for us going into the bye week. Then hopefully we’ll have a chance to get healthy and work on some things and get ready for those last four games of region play.”

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