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High school football: Seniors lead Brantley to 1A finals

12:00 AM, Dec. 04, 2012 EST

Taylor Driggers is truly appreciative of all the calls from assistant coaches at UAB, Troy, Memphis and other colleges throughout the country.

Just don't call the Brantley High lineman this week.

The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder has offers from Troy, Memphis, Army and Georgia State and still gets calls from Auburn and Mississippi State, among others. He knows it's rare for a Class 1A player to get attention from college recruiters, but he really doesn't want to hear from them this week.

"It's definitely been a cool experience, being recruited, especially here," Driggers said. "Right now, it's in the back of my mind. I just have a one-track mind right now on the state championship."

Brantley (14-0) will play defending state champion Marion County (13-1) at 3 p.m. Thursday at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Class 1A state championship.

Driggers is one of 16 seniors on the Bulldogs' squad -- an unusually high number for a 1A team -- and one of six who were on the team as freshmen in 2009 when Brantley defeated Hackleburg for the school's third football championship. While none of those players participated in the championship game, they can draw from that experience on Thursday.

"In 2009, we had no expectations to win state," Driggers said. "You want to go as far as you can in the playoffs, but no expectation to win state. This year, we came in with that expectation and a hunger to win state. We learned a lot from 2009, how to handle games. We had a great group of seniors in 2009, and we learned a lot about leadership, how to lead a team to a state championship and how to handle yourselves once you get there."

The hunger comes from being upset by McIntosh in the first round of the playoffs in 2010 and by Pickens County in the second round of the 2011 playoffs. While those six seniors have compiled a 45-7 record in four years, this will be their first time playing in this environment.

Driggers anchors an offensive line that has powered its way to 697 points (an average of 49.8 points per game) this season and a defensive unit that has surrendered just four touchdowns by the starters and seven overall.

"For us here at Brantley, he's got to rank up there as one of the best linemen we've had, certainly in the 14 years I've been here," Brantley coach David Lowery said. "He's got good size but has really worked hard in the weight room. He bench presses 385 pounds, so he knows how to take his strength to the football field."

Tight end Zane Johnson has known Driggers since kindergarten and said the two-way tackle really blossomed since becoming a starter as a sophomore.

"A lot of us used to be bigger than he was," Johnson said. "I'd say it was the 10th-grade year when he really bulked up. He's always been tall but in the 10th grade, he put on a lot of weight and grew into his body. On the offensive line, he's kind of the guy we look to. If we're going to run the ball, we're going to run behind him because we have confidence in him."

Defensively, it's never one person on Brantley's defense. It's an attitude, the kind Driggers believes he can take to the college level.

"I love getting after people (as an offensive lineman) and getting pancakes," he said, "but my preference would be on defense. I like getting nasty on the football field. I have a little bit of a mean streak and getting after it. That's why I lean to defense."

He'll have his hands full Thursday afternoon taking on a Red Raider offense that features three 1,000-yard rushers as well as a quarterback (Sean Wallace) who needs just 47 yards to top the 1,000-yard mark as well.

"If they're in the state championship game, they're good," Driggers said. "We've seen a lot of film on them. They're physical. We expect a physical game. We can't let their running game dictate the speed of the game.

"It's just assignment football (trying to contain the Marion County wing-T offense). It's just being coached up and knowing what to do and just getting after it. We'll get to the ball and make plays like we always do."




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