In theory, it was only a scrimmage.
Don’t tell that to the Apalachee High School football team.
The Wildcats defeated Monroe Area 17-10 Friday in their second preseason game of the month. AHS held the seven-point advantage after three quarters of varsity play, and continued to lead after 12 minutes of JV competition. No matter how you slice it, the Wildcats were on the right side of the scoreboard.
“Whether it’s a game, scrimmage, weight lifting or 7-on-7, we want to win,” said Apalachee head coach Shane Davis.
AHS took Friday’s opening drive and put together a 70-yard drive capped on a 5-yard score by Kyle Jackson. The possession included 15 plays, four first downs and consumed just over eight and a half minutes off the clock.
Monroe Area would answer with a 70-yard drive of its own, culminating with a 5-yard run with 27 seconds left in the opening quarter.
The host Wildcats then answered with another 70-yard drive which reached the endzone on a 5-yard pass from Brian Wilson to Hunter Wagler with 8:22 before halftime.
“The best defense is a good offense,” Davis said. “That’s what we’ve always tried to do.”
An interception by Kyle Jackson stopped Monroe Area’s second drive and AHS then added a 26-yard field goal by Dylan Staples with 1:48 left before time. Staples was also perfect on his two extra-point attempts.
Wilson and Alantae Billings alternated time at quarterback for the Wildcats and both were effective. AHS showed what will likely be some variations on its offense this fall running a more spread attack than a pure Wing-T formation.
Dalton Bales showed he may be one of the top runners for Davis as he bruised his way past the 100 mark unofficially.
AHS also showed promise passing the football with Billings going 3-for-3 and Wilson finishing 6-of-10. The offensive line, consisting at times of Christian Dufrene, Chase Williamson, Dalton Hood, Jonah Willard, Michael Snead, Logan Jackson and C.J. McLocklin played well in the second scrimmage in as many weeks.
“I was pleased with most everything on Friday,” AHS offensive coordinator Joel Miller said. “It was a huge confidence boost to get the football first and put together a long, scoring drive.
Using 15 plays and 7:30 off the clock is what we have done for years, so that was encouraging.”
The only points in the second half came on a 30-yard field goal by Monroe Area during the opening possession of the third quarter.
The AHS varsity led 17-10 after the third quarter and the score remained that way after 12 minutes of junior varsity action.
There were some areas from Friday, despite the win, that Davis said needs improving.
“We converted some third downs and made plays when presented with the opportunities,” Miller said. “I was not pleased with the two turnovers and our blocking on the perimeter. One turnover cost us points at the end of the half and the other put our defense right back on the field after a long drive by Monroe Area. Our perimeter blocking was poor from our wide receivers and running backs, so that is something we will emphasize over the next two weeks.”
On the other side of the football, there were also some positives and negatives.
“On defense, I was a little disappointed in some missed tackles,” the coach said. “Some things will get better with game experience. Monroe converted on some third and long situations. You have to find a way, defensively, to get off the field in those cases.”
New defensive coordinator Charles Liggett said despite the overall success Friday, the team is still far from where it needs to be for the season.
“Friday started off rocky with some missed tackles that led to big plays, but after that initial scoring drive we settled down,” Liggett said. “The third down conversions hurt and the three big plays aren’t what we want. The kids are really buying in and working hard to make plays and get in the right place. The stats and numbers say things aren’t going well, but we know that we are headed in the right direction. We have to stay healthy as well.”
Davis and his coaches and players are now looking ahead to the Aug. 29 season opener against Woodland High School of Henry County.
The road game will be the lone non-region game for the Wildcats in 2014 as the 8-AAAAA schedule begins Sept. 5 at Winder-Barrow High School.
The plan for this week was to spend Monday and likely Tuesday on “what we need to do,” Davis said.
“Woodland is a spread team and we’ve seen two spread teams in our scrimmages,” he said. “That means at least we won’t be that far behind in preparing for what they do. It will be a lot of the same. In terms of Friday’s scrimmage, I’d rather be frustrated with some things after a win than after a loss. The kids were excited even after our first scrimmage because we did some positive things. There were some positives in the second scrimmage as well.”