The Winder-Barrow High School football coaches and players know all too well the challenge that awaits them this Friday.
After playing Monroe Area, a state-ranked Class AAAA program, last Friday, it could be said the Bulldoggs are going from the proverbial frying pan into the football fire as they prepare to open the Region 8-AAAAA schedule against defending state champion Gainesville.
“We are not approaching it any different than we did against Monroe Area,” WBHS coach David Wagner said Monday morning. “They are able to score and score a lot. The biggest thing is we need to get better ourselves and not commit turnovers. That was the biggest thing about the Monroe Area game. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot.”
Part of the game plan this week for the Bulldoggs will be to defend Gainesville All-State quarterback DeShaun Watson, the state’s all-time passing leader.
“You can do everything right in terms of lining up defensively and he still may go 80 yards on you,” Wagner said. “He is that talented. What we have to do is not give them the short field. We have to make them drive the football on us and when we have possession, we have to sustain drives and keep their offense off the field. That is vitally important.”
WBHS will look to survive the initial Gainesville offensive onslaught early.
“When you go into a game where there is no telling just how big of an underdog you truly are, you always want to keep it close in the first half and give yourself a chance late,” Wagner said. “When we have the football we need to take five minutes off the clock or six minutes off the clock. We need to put together a scoring drive here or there.”
Last Friday in a 40-14 loss to Monroe Area, the Bulldoggs trailed 14-0 at halftime. That was a far improvement from the 2012 matchup when WBHS was out of the game by halftime.We were down 14-0 in Monroe.
“We want the clock rolling early to limit the number of possessions they have,” Wagner said.
While Watson gets plenty of attention, Wagner said “everything” about Gainesville is very good.
“Their running game is solid, their receivers are solid and their line is huge,” Wagner said. “They don’t take chances defensively. They are good on special teams. They are a good overall football team. When you add up the number of years of experience on their coaching staff, you probably have 80 or 90 years.”
WBHS defensive coordinator Stanley Allen said Watson makes the Red Elephants an upper tier program.
“If they didn’t have Watson, they would still be good, but not near as good as they are with him,” Allen said. “He is the engine that makes Gainesville go. We need to somehow contain him and stick to the rest of the players. They are really good. (Monroe Area’s) Stanton Truitt is faster than Watson but doesn’t throw the ball nearly as good. We are just going to go back to work and get after it this week.”
Gainesville, who had been No. 1 in AAAAA, fell to Buford, a Class AAA power last week. Regardless of the outcome, Wagner doesn’t think there is a chance of Gainesville not being ready to play.
“They beat Buford last year and it didn’t do us any favors,” Wagner said. “Whether they won the game or lost it, I don’t think that will make any difference when they play us. You have to play them all. We might as well go ahead and play the best early. At the end of day, some wonder if it’s better to play someone like them early or late. I say let’s play the best and see where we’re at.”
The WBHS coaches were left wondering what have been in the last week’s loss to Monroe Area. Three turnovers led to points by the visitors. Wagner said those mistakes to have eliminated this week and moving forward in the season.
Stat-wise in 2013, CeCe Green and Chandon Sullivan have provided the one-two punch in the rushing attack. Sullivan has 179 yards on 28 carries while Green added 170 yards on 26 attempts.