It's no secret -- when Montgomery Academy has the ball, it likes to run.
Because of this, the Eagles' receivers can get overlooked. But junior receiver and defense back Sam LaPlatney has been making his presence felt in recent games. And despite MA's tendency to run, LaPlatney has been finding a way to get the ball in his hands.
In last week's first-round win against Sand Rock, LaPlatney had five catches for 95 yards and the game-sealing 65-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The week before, LaPlatney sparked MA with an interception return against rival Trinity.
"Our coaches have us really well prepared for the passing game. We work 7-on-7 every day and we know when they're checking down," LaPlatney said. "Sand Rock, their quarterback was checking down the whole game, so I was able to pick up on that and make a play on the ball."
MA (10-1) will need LaPlatney to continue playing at a high level when it heads to Ranburne (10-1) for Round 2 of the Class 2A playoffs Friday.
LaPlatney is the Eagles' leading receiver with 24 catches for 622 yards and three touchdowns. He's also MA's most reliable deep threat, averaging more than 25 yards per catch.
"He just makes plays. He's our playmaker on the outside," junior quarterback Josh Thomas said. "I feel like if I throw it up to him, either he's going to come down with it or nobody does. I just have a lot of faith in him right now."
His defense has improved throughout the season and he's coming on strong at the right time. In the last three games, LaPlatney has 17 tackles and three interceptions.
"He's just been that guy for us," MA coach Anthony McCall said. "He just makes plays. He's a good balance for us on the outside. We know what we do with Thomas and (Justin) Woolfolk between the tackles, but being able to get someone involved on the perimeter helps out tremendously."
In addition to LaPlatney making plays on both sides of the ball, Thomas is spending more time at safety this postseason. He played sparingly in the defensive backfield during the year, but had two big interceptions in last week's first-round win.
"I was just trying to go out there and make plays for my team. Just doing what it takes to win the game. That's all that matters to me," Thomas said. "It's a lot different, because I'm kind of on the outside looking in, instead of right in the middle of it. I just have to be able to ingest more information. Now, instead of just learning about their defense, I have to learn about their offense. Just have to be able to identify formations."
The Eagles will have their hands full on Friday, playing a Ranburne team that coach McCall said runs a Wing-T scheme, but out of the shotgun.
On defense, Ranburne's 3-3 stack led by a physical nose tackle and speedy linebackers could pose problems for the Eagles.
"We're trying to do some things to give ourselves some opportunities to make some plays against that kind of speed," McCall said. "It's a challenge for us this week. But at the end of the day, we just have to do what we do, and what's gotten us here. We just have to maintain and continue doing it. Hopefully we'll have some success doing that."