The Russellville Middle School football team will be playing for a region championship this weekend – and if the Panthers win, it will be on to the state tournament.
RMS blew out North Drive Middle School from Hopkinsville 42-0 last weekend at Rhea Stadium to set up Saturday’s meeting against Trigg County in the regional championship.
“Against North Drive, we were firing on all cylinders,” RMS coach Toby Baptiste said. “Our offense and defense and special teams were all great.”
The victory was made even sweeter, because it helped erase the memory of a late-season loss to Glasgow.
In the next-to-last game of the regular season, the Panthers lost big to the Scotties. It was the first – and only – loss of the season for them.
“The district win meant a lot to us as a team because we went out there and are undefeated and played Glasgow and laid a big egg and just played horrible,” Baptiste said.
After losing to Glasgow, RMS rebounded to beat rival Franklin-Simpson in the Tobacco Bowl and then pounded North Drive in the playoffs.
“I don’t know that this would have happened if we had beaten Glasgow,” Baptiste said.
A lot of the team’s success is because of the Panther linemen.
“I am real proud of the offensive line,” Baptiste said. “A lot of those big guys don’t always get a lot of attention, but they are doing a great job for us.”
Now the Panthers turn their eyes to Trigg County.
The team will play the regional championship on Saturday in Cadiz at 10:30 a.m.
A caravan will be leaving the middle school on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. to follow the team to Trigg County.
With a win in region title game, Russellville will advance to next week’s state championship in Lexington.
The semifinals will be played on Saturday, Oct. 31 with the state championship scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 1.
Baptiste said he likes his teams chances for making it to Lexington.
“On paper, it looks good for us,” Baptiste said. “But with all cases, you have to go do your job.”
Regardless of what happens this weekend, it’s been quite a season for the Panthers.
“It’s been a special year for our kids,” Baptiste said. “When I took over last year, the team hadn’t been very successful. We had a lot of kids struggling with grade and attitude those kids are doing great in the classroom and attitudes.”
A big part of the turnaround came about because of a Big Brother program Baptiste instituted that brought in weekly speakers to motive his kids.