By Harrison Tarr
For the Observer
Friday night at Duck-Samford stadium featured large amounts of hot chocolate, knit hats and hand warmers as spectators watched the hometown Tigers trample the Baker Hornets 39-3 and advance to the second round of the AHSAA Class 7A state playoffs.
From the opening drive of the contest, it became evident that the blue and white were out to post a statement victory and were not going to take their foot off the gas.
The Tigers leaned heavily on their run game in the early going, marching down the field on their first possession and finding paydirt on a Killian Massey breakaway run.
Massey’s rush set head coach Keith Etherdge’s squad up to execute the offensive strategy they have relied upon to this point in 2021.
“Offensively, we did what we’ve been doing,” Etheredge said. “We ran the football, we set up to pass and we got some receivers open.”
Baker was able to march down the field on its ensuing posession but was ultimately shut down by the Tiger defense and forced into a field goal, effectively bringing an end to any form of offensive rhythm the Hornets achieved on the evening.
Etheredge was pleased with the near-shutdown performance of his defensive unit.
“I think we did a good job of coming off the edge,” Etheredge said. “And we played good in the secondary. We covered their receivers well.”
A common theme in the team’s 2021 campaign, the Auburn defense’s ability to shut down its opponents presented its offense with a plethora of opportunities to punch the ball across the plane.
Senior tight end Cameron Etheredge was instrumental in the Tiger offensive attack, racking up three touchdowns through the air and accounting for 18 of his squad’s 39 points. His head coach, who happens to double as his father, was proud of his efforts in the playoff victory.
“He was big,” Etheredge said. “I’m proud of him. He played a great game tonight. A lot of people are trying to stack over the top of Bakari (Dailey) because he’s big, he’s physical and he has great hands. I think Clyde did a great job of getting him the ball.”
The Tiger play caller made sure to give credit to the player responsible for getting the ball into Cameron’s hands: junior quarterback Clyde Pittman.
“I think Clyde is getting better and better every week,” Etheredge said. “He does a good job of throwing to the open guy, he doesn’t try to target an individual.”
Pittman’s day consisted of three touchdown passes — all to his tight end — and no turnovers before he was eventually benched to give sophomore Davis Harsin playoff experience with Auburn soundly ahead.
When the clock hit double zeros, Auburn’s first-year head coach had successfully recorded his first playoff victory with the program. Although he was excited to walk away with the victory, he has already begun looking towards the remainder of the playoffs.
“Proud of these guys,” Etheredge said. “I’m proud of the win. Right now, I’ll take three more one-point wins.”
Etheredge also noted his appreciation for the hometown fans who braved the chilly evening to cheer their team on, reminding the community that their support has not gone unnoticed.
“It was great to see the fans here,” Etheredge said. “It’s a cold night but they come out every Friday night. That’s what’s special about being here. It’s great to get my first playoff win here but I want three more this year.”
The first round has concluded and Auburn now finds itself faced with its next challenge on the road to a possible state championship: 9-3 Enterprise. The Tigers will host the Wildcats at Duck-Samford Stadium at 7 p.m. CST this Friday. Streaming of the contest will be available with a subscription to the NFHS network.