This time, the prize is bigger, and Anniston knows what it must correct to keep it from being another close game and continue its quest for a Class 4A state title.
“We were playing too cautious,” Bullock said of Week 8’s 41-34 win. “We weren’t playing aggressively. We were trying to be too exact with everything they were running.
“On defense, you never know that other team is running. With our backs, I always emphasize playing your technique. If you play your technique, you’ll be fine.”
In that first meeting at Lott-Mosby Memorial Stadium — the same place as Friday night’s showdown — Oneonta (9-2) reeled off 24 first-half points to build an 11-point halftime lead.
That kind of spurt is exactly what Anniston head coach Eddie Bullock said his team has been working to prevent in its two days of practice, following a 54-8 throttling of Dora in the first-round.
Oneonta runs a fast-paced, spread-style offense, one that Anniston will have to match energy levels with said defensive end Corey Johnson.
“We’ve been working on our discipline and working on our assignments,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to be a better football team. We’re aiming to get a (shutout).”
Tuesday afternoon, Anniston focused mainly on formation recognition as it prepared to face a team that runs a lot of motion and gives multiple looks out of the shotgun. Bullock did however hold his team out of any full-contact drills. He added that besides the injury to standout junior running back Troymaine Pope his team is as healthy as any team is at this juncture of the season.
Pope, who came into Anniston’s game against with more than 1,800 yards and nearly 30 touchdowns, scored twice before leaving the contest midway through second quarter with a knee injury never to return. Bullock said the 5-foot-8, 185-pounder’s status is still day-to-day as he did on Monday.
Pope was at practice Tuesday but did not dress out.
“Mentally, he’s ready to go,” Bullock said of Pope. “He’s actually worried about me not letting him play. This is my first year being the head coach. I’m not like most coaches. I have one of the biggest competitive spirits you’ll ever meet. I don’t like losing but my first priority is that kid’s health.
“I told Troymaine that he has a lot of days of football ahead of him. I might err. But if I do, I’m going to err on the side of his health. I care more about that than I do winning Friday night. And I know might get criticized for that. But I’m OK with that.”
Anniston starting quarterback Josiah Atkins said he’s still confident the offense he guides, which has averaged nearly 40 points a game can put up big numbers despite the absence of Pope, who rushed for 257 yards and five touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ first outing against the Redskins.
“We’ve got other backs who can step in and do some of the things Pope did,” Atkins said. “It’s not going to be easy. But everyone’s going to have to be a little more focused. We’ll be alright.”
They also might air things a bit more with Atkins who passed for more than 1,700 yards as junior.
The Bulldogs reached the second-round of the playoffs last season under former coach Alex Wilson but had to travel to face a tough Bibb County squad that beat them 22-6.
Bullock said he likes the way his team has matured throughout the season.
“They’ve got the playoff mindset,” Bullock said. “They’re coming to me and actually making suggestions about what we need to do against different sets. I encourage that. As a coach I’m always asking them what’s going on out there and now they’re coming to me and saying, ‘Try this’ or ‘Try that’. At the start of the season, our motto was, ‘One team, one mindset, one heartbeat’ and now that’s happening.”