This will be the second post-season meeting for Alma and Mills in as many years.
Alma edged Mills at the home of the Comets by just one point, 21-20, in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Mills finished the regular season 8-2 with conference losses to Sylvan Hills and Pulaski Academy. Mills finished in a three-way tie for third with Sylvan Hills and Helena-West Helena, but drew the No. 2 seed for the playoffs.
The Comets enter Friday’s contest averaging 30 points per game on offense, while giving up just 18.3 ppg. However, Mills lost to Pulaski Academy 50-21 in Week 8. Without that game factored into total, the Comets have surrendered just 15.2 ppg.
Mills lost to Sylvan Hills 37-36, and the Comets have only given up 20 or more points twice this season. Mills led 36-23 in the fourth quarter of that game before Sylvan Hills rallied back.
In the Pulaski Academy loss, Mills had just 198 yards, but committed four turnovers in the second half.
“Overall, Mills will be the most athletic team we have seen all year,” said Alma coach Doug Loughridge. “Offensively, Mills is a run-oriented offense. (The Coments) run a very efficient option attack and do a good job getting the football to the perimeter to their skill players.
“Defensively, overall team speed is definitely (the Comets’) strength.”
Mills upset favorite White Hall in the first round of the playoffs with the 32-13 win.
This is the Comets fourth trip to the playoffs in five years.
Mills runs out of the Double Wing, but is capable of breaking away for big plays on defense and special teams.
Senior cornerback Jacob Cranford returned an interception for the game-winning touchdown with :58 remaining in the game as the Comets defeated West Helena 20-13. Senior Jayle Clark returned a kickoff 84 yards to set up the winning TD at Jacksonville during Week 9.
Omar Avance is the first three-year starter for Mills in nearly 20 years and is a threat both passing and on the ground. Avance had three touchdown passes and carried in another one as Mills defeated North Pulaski 45-6 in Week 6. He also had four TD passes against LR McClellan in Week 4.
Avance paced the Comets on the ground before other teams began to key in on him. Also seeing carries are Ke’Undra Allen (senior, fullback) and Jacob Cranford (senior, halfback).
“We are going to have to play very disciplined on defense against their option attack,” Loughridge said. “One missed assignment and (the Comets) can take it to the house.
Alma struggled with the running game in the first half last week against Beebe and had to rely upon the passing game to help keep the Badgers’ offense off the field.
The Airedales finished with just 101 yards on the ground while quarterback Evan Burris was 9 of 12 for 203 yards and three touchdowns. Thomas Hall caught two touchdown passes and hauled in a key fourth-down reception in first half and finished with three catches for 99 yards.
“Offensively, we must take care of the football and not give (Mills) opportunities to points on the board,” said Loughridge. “Our offensive line must fire off and sustain their blocks and allow our backs to make plays.”
Alex Burris recovered one fumble and had a team-high 13 tackles with one sack. Junior Edwards had nine solo stops and finished with 11 stops on defense. Curtis Lloyd also finished with nine tackles while both John Riddle and Asa Scruggs added eight tackles each.