Number one ranked UMS Wright will travel to fourth ranked Andalusia for a key 4A Region 1 battle Friday night. The Bulldogs of Andalusia are ranked fourth only because they lost their opening contest to 6A Shades Valley 56-42. Since that time the Bulldogs have dispatched Trinity 31-14 and Monroe County 54-0. UMS Wright opened the season with wins over Mary Montgomery 35-6, Charles Henderson 27-22 and Escambia County 41-8.
The Andalusia-UMS Wright match up is an interesting series. It starts with the two of the best high school football coaches in the state. Terry Curtis has turned UMS Wright into one of the premier programs in the state over the last 18 years. Consistency has been the hall mark of the Bulldogs, winning 10 or more games 13 times during that stretch. Coach Trent Taylor spent 25 seasons at Straughn High School, right outside of Andalusia. He took the Tigers from a small 2A basketball school to a 3A football power. In his last five seasons there he took his team to the semifinals twice and won 10 games in three of those campaigns. Taylor returned to his alma mater in 2015. In the 37 years before his arrival, Andalusia had three seasons of 10 or more wins. Taylor led the Bulldogs to 11 wins in his first season and 12 wins and a semi final playoff berth in 2016.
The teams have played 13 times since 2000, all during the Terry Curtis era. Andalusia has never beaten UMS, but the Bulldogs came close last year, losing 14-7 when UMS held the Bulldogs out of the end zone late in the game.
Andalusia features QB Ethan Wilson who is having a terrific senior year. The lefty has completed 40-of-53 passes so far for 642 yards and eight touchdowns. He also has run for 125 yards and a score. “Ethan is having a good year,” Taylor said. “We are also very fortunate that we have four wide receivers we are comfortable with so that helps. Ethan does a good job of distributing the ball and making plays with his legs as well. We have some new faces on the offensive line, but we feel like we have a chance to be pretty good there before the year is out.” Terry Curtis knows what UMS must do to win the game. “They have some excellent players on their team, but it all starts and ends with Ethan Wilson. He makes it go.”
The Andalusia defense is younger, and Shades Valley took advantage of that with a running QB in the season’s first game. But with three games under their belt, Andalusia hopes to do a better job of containing the UMS run game led by backs Symon Smith and Dylan Casstevens. “Our defense has improved a lot in the last few weeks,” Taylor said. Smith has great speed and quickness, averaging almost 10 yards per carry. Casstevens is the power back. “Symon can go the distance at any point. Dylan is more of a power back, a plugger,” Curtis said.
UMS senior quarterback Will Chapman is completing 61 percent of his passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns. “Will knows the offense and he knows what everyone is supposed to do. I think he’ll get better every game. We’ll have some games he’ll have to help us win,” Curtis said.
Coach Taylor says that this UMS team looks very much like those of the past. “They are really scrappy on defense, have the explosive running back and they really play hard. Just watching them I think this team may play even harder than last year’s team,” he said.
Look for this game to be a close one down to the wire once again. But the signs tend to say that this one will be more high scoring. The winner will likely sit atop the 4A poll, and be in the region driver’s seat. But there is also a strong possibility that these two Bulldog teams will meet again down the playoff road.