Two words that members of the Tate Aggies football team likely aren’t fond of: Niceville Eagles.
Counting a postseason shootout, the teams have met five times in the past three seasons.
The Tate Aggies are hoping the sixth time will be the charm at 7:30 p.m. Friday as they will make it a fifth this Friday as Niceville (10-2) hosts Tate (9-2) in the Region 1-6A final.
The Eagles have outscored the Aggies 140-48 in the five meetings, with the closest game being a 35-32 win for the Eagles at Tate during Week 5 of the regular season.
This time around, the Aggies will hit the road to face Niceville — and they couldn’t be happier about the opportunity.
The Aggies finished unbeaten on the road in the regular season, and have traveled to, and won, both playoff games this postseason.
It’s just something about the all-white jerseys that Tate wears during its away games, according to the Aggies.
“Ah … the ole’ white knights,” said Tate’s leading tackler Dallas Ditto, laughing. “It’s superstitious. We’ve been whiting them out. The white knights are coming out here and running things.”
Quarterback Sawyer Smith echoed Ditto’s sentiments.
“We are wearing white (this Friday),” Smith said. “We’ve played close games in white, we’ve had easier games in white … but we are tough to beat when we wear those whites.”
It’s something that head coach Jay Lindsey has bought into as well.
“I believe in it (the white jerseys) … it has been proven this year,” Lindsey said. “I don’t know what it is necessarily about the jerseys … you have moments and things that come together when you make a run like this as a team. We were undefeated on the road during the regular season, and as far as the playoffs, we have been on the road and beat two quality opponents. We’ve got that mindset. We don’t plan on playing at home during the playoffs and we are fine with that.”
The Aggies will seek to have Ditto and the defense — a unit that has allowed an average of 14.5 points-per-game during the postseason — continue to play their physical role this Friday.
Lindsey said he expects his Aggies and the Eagles to “match up well,” with both teams holding “physical defenses and balanced offenses.”
“As far as a program, Niceville is just as solid as can be,” Lindsey said. “This is their third-straight year playing in a regional final. They know what they are doing and they have put themselves in the right spot. Both (Tate) and Niceville have good athletes and really good role players.”
The Aggies will be tasked with containing offensive playmakers Eli Stove (Auburn commit) and Deonte Sheffield — who has set a Niceville record for rushing yards this season.
But according to Ditto, the Aggies “will treat the Niceville game like any other.”
“I expect us to come out with the ‘W’, if we just come out and play like we have been the last few weeks,” the senior said. “We’ve gotta treat Niceville’s playmakers like any other player. We don’t want to direct too much focus on someone. Niceville is good enough to find their other athletes.
“This week, we’re trying to not get too hyped up. It’s another game of our playoff season.”
Region 1-6A Final
Who: Tate Aggies vs. Niceville Eagles
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Niceville High
Records: Tate (9-2); Niceville (10-2)
Radio: ESPN 1450 AM/101.1 FM