Last season in the second round of the 1A State Football Playoffs, the Hawks had to play a familiar opponent in the second round in the Ray Brooks Tigers and this year the team is back in the same situation as they travel to play a region foe in the Coffeeville Pirates.
This season, the Hawks finished second in Region 2-1A while the Pirates finished fourth. The last time the two teams faced each other, Shaw dominated the contest with a 44-14 victory in Coffeeville.
Both teams were impressive in the first round of the 1A playoffs. The Hawks (9-2) handed it to Faulkner 44-8 while Coffeeville (7-6) defeated Vardaman 35-21 in its first round game.
Shaw head coach Kendrick Smith said he feels the team is right where they need to be to make a push through the playoffs.
"The team is very confident right now that we can make a run and accomplish our goals and finish the deal this time,” Smith said. “We have a tough opponent in Coffeeville. We played them a couple of weeks ago and performed really well, but this is a different week and a whole new season so this will be a totally different ball game especially from their side.”
When considering the dominance the Hawks displayed the last time they met the Pirates, Smith said the coaching staff is reminding the team daily to never overlook an opponent.
"We just tell them if you lose this game it's over with,” Smith said. “ It was 44-14 last time, but you don't know what's going to happen this week. Our experience playing Ray Brooks last year in the playoffs has really helped us to focus on not overlooking Coffeeville. We know they can be dangerous if we don't take care of business, but I think our guys are ready for the challenge.”
Smith pointed out that with a team like Coffeeville, his team has to be on point.
"We have to tackle well and take care of our responsibilities. We have to contain them and not let them get on the outside because they have some speed over there. If we are out of position, they will score so we just have to make sure we take care of our responsibility," Smith added.
The Hawks have done a great job of having balance in their offensive attack. The team averages 106.5 passing yards and 182.1 rushing yards per game.
Senior quarterback Andre Pruitt has completed 49-of-99 passes for 1,143 yards with 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions. As a team, the Hawks have rushed for 2,003 yards with 36 touchdowns. Christopher Harthone has led the ground game with 853 yards on 125 carries with 16 touchdowns. Five other Shaw players have three or more rushing touchdowns on the season.
"Our quarterback allows us to be more balanced,” Smith said. “Last year, we had an inexperienced quarterback in his first year playing the position and we didn't want to put too much on him. We have a talented quarterback that allows us to be explosive in the passing game and the running game. We have a veteran offensive line that's only getting better protecting the quarterback and opening holes for the running backs, and we have athletes out here making plays when they catch the ball," said Smith.
Kickoff will be 7 p.m. Friday in Coffeeville. The winner of this game will take on the winner of the St. Joe-French Camp game for the 1A North Half Title.