There’s excitement in the air around Pineville as the Mountain Lions host a playoff game for the first time since 2000 tonight against Berea.
“It’s an accomplishment for these guys,” Lion coach Bart Elam said. “We had a couple of speakers come in and talk to them about that and congratulate them on reaching that goal.”
Earning a home playoff game is something Pineville has been building toward since Elam became the coach in 2006.
“We took it in steps. First we wanted to have a winning season, then get a playoff win, now we have a home playoff game. Next comes getting a district champion ship,” he said. “These kids have really brought a lot of good things to Pineville football and to the city. I’m proud of this year’s seniors, they’ve done a lot of great things. They’ve got a winning record during their time here, two playoff wins, they finally beat Harlan. Now we’ve just got to take that next step and show that we belong on the field with the top teams in Class A.”
The Pirates (2-8) will be looking rain on the Lions’ parade. They come in averaging 13.1 points per game while allowing 40, but Elam said his team won’t be taking them lightly.
“They’re a well-coached team and they try to play the game the right way,” he said. “They like to try and run the ball first with their big quarterback. They show a lot of formations and they can be balanced. They’re a team that if you let them hang in there, then you’ll be in for a dogfight.”
That quarterback is junior Kevin Reid and he’s the key to the Pirates’ offense. Stats for Berea weren’t available, but Reid is both their most dangerous runner and a capable passer with a couple of good targets on the outside.
“He can throw it when he has to, but we have to keep him bottled up,” Elam said. “It’s playoff time, everybody is going to let it rip and it’s hard to tell what you might see. We’ll have to be ready for anything.”
Pineville (6-4) comes in limping a bit, both figuratively and literally. Senior running back Conner Ford left in the first series of last week’s 47-0 loss to Williamsburg with a leg injury when both his knee and ankle were rolled up. Elam said he’s been practicing some all week and is expected to play, though he’s still less than 100-percent.
Ford leads the Lions with 1,048 yards and 14 touchdowns this year and has also caught 19 passes for 366 yards and four scores. Sophomore Brad Fuson provides the other half of a solid 1-2 ground punch with 773 yards and 13 TDs. Freshman quarterback Tucker Woolum has completed 69 of 129 passes for 1,097 yards and 10 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Freshman Will Adams is the leading receiver with 31 catches for 438 yards and two touchdowns.
Elam said that last week’s loss was humbling for Pineville, but also serves to get them focused for this week’s game.
“With the way we go our tails kicked last week, we’ve got enough to worry about with how we’re playing instead of worrying about playing at home or what the other team is going to do,” he said. “We’re not overlooking (Berea) at all and after last week we want to get back to playing Pineville football. We’ve got to go out there with our briefcases and go to work.”
He added that last week’s lopsided score was partly due to the younger players being thrust into a tough situation after Ford went out early.
“It really put some pressure on some kids that haven’t had that pressure put on them before,” Elam said. “With Conner being injured we’ll have to be more creative in how we do things. We have put more pressure on those younger guys in practice this week.
“It’s the playoffs. If you lose, you go home. We’ve got to give it all we’ve got and just go out there and show what Pineville football is all about.”
Tonight’s game kicks off at 7:30 p.m.