By Derrick Mahone
Jaime Aull has experienced the playoffs as both a player and assistant coach.
Friday, the former all-state offensive lineman will get a taste of the postseason from a totally different angle - as a head coach. The first-year Mt. Zion coach will lead the Bulldogs (8-2) into Bibb County Sports Complex to face Westside-Macon in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
Prior to taking over the head coaching duties this season, Aull served as an assistant coach at the Jonesboro school for the last five years, including the past two as offensive coordinator. He replaced Jarrett Laws, who took a similar position at Charles Drew, a new school in the county.
"The playoffs are a different intensity," Aull said. "You have to take your energy to another level."
The Bulldogs made a run at it last season in reaching the quarterfinals, and finishing the season with a No. 8 ranking. After taking over the helm at Mt. Zion this season, Aull decided to keep basically the same routine intact. He retained his offensive play-calling duties, butl elevated Chris Jones to the defensive coordinator position. Offensively, with eight starters back, he put in a few new offensive wrinkles for returning quarterback Jarrell King.
"The biggest difference is the administrative part for me," Aull said. "I'm doing a lot of the paperwork."
Aull and his Westside counterpart, Sheddrick Risper, are going through a similar situation this season. Risper replaced the legendary Robert Davis, who retired after last season as the state's second all-time winningest coach. Prior to his appointment as head coach, Risper spent the last 12 years with the program and most recently served as the middle school athletics director and eighth-grade head coach.
The Seminoles are 9-1 and the No. 2 seed from Region 1-AAAA. Like Mt. Zion, Region 4-AAAA's No. 3 seed, the Seminoles are coming off a quarterfinals appearance last season.
"He (Risper) has coached all those kids before in the middle school program, and they are familiar with him," said Aull, a member of Mt. Zion's 1999 team that finished as the Class AAA state runner-up. "Like me, he knows his kids. I'm sure he has had the same growing pains that I've had as a first-year head coach."
Westside is hoping that it can continue its playoff success. The Seminoles have an all-time 9-2 home record in the postseason, and have won all eight of their first two round playoff games at home. The schools have crossed paths before when they were members of Region 2-AAAAA during the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Westside won both contest those years 21-7 and 41-6.
The Seminoles only loss this season was on Oct. 30 at Thomas County Central (27-18) in a game that decided the region championship. On the season, Westside's defense has given up only 94 points and recorded three shutouts. The offense is led by running back Robert Brown and wide receiver Ronnie Carswell, who has committed to nationally-ranked Alabama. In the Seminoles' 22-17 victory over Hardaway last week, Brown rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
King, a three-year starter, has been a big part of the team's success.
"He has done a good job for us," Aull said. "He had some games when he was not at his best, but he would be the first to admit it. He has a lot of experience, and he is our field general."