Shane Davis has been involved in coaching high school football a long time.
Now entering his 10th season as the head coach at Apalachee High School, Davis said opening week is still special and something that his players and coaches look forward to. Ironically this season, even with Friday’s opener at hand, Davis said it has had somewhat of a different vibe to it.
“It seems we have been going longer than we have,” the AHS coach said. “We’ve only been practicing a few weeks, but we’ve had two preseasons scrimmages. Our first one came at the end of our first week of practice. Things are different now since school starts early. It seems the days of having two and three-a-day practices are gone. Most schools don’t go away to camp anymore either.”
Up first for the Wildcats this season will be Woodland High School in Henry County. The Wolfpack enter the game off a 28-14 win in their season opener last week.
“They are very big on both sides of the football,” Davis said. “They are also very athletic and have some good skills players.”
Defensively, they are big up front and their back seven runs to the football well.
Offensively, Woodland “does a little of everything,” Davis said.
“We have seen everything from an empty backfield to a two tight end set to the Power I formation to the quarterback being under center. We have to be prepared for anything they may show us. They have done enough with their sets that you have to be ready for all of it.”
Making the task of preparing for so many things an opponent does on offense is made tougher by the fact AHS has been installing a new defense.
In preparing an offensive game plan for Woodland, AHS offensive coordinator Joel Miller said the defensive line for this week’s opponent may be as good as any the Wildcats will see all year.
“They come off the football well and get penetration into the backfield,” Miller said. “That can cause major problems for any offense. Their back seven are athletic and disciplined. For us to have success offensively, we have to find a way to limit their penetration and slow them down somehow.”
Even if some negative plans occur, Miller said the offense must be able to sustain drives.
“They have an advantage because they played last Friday,” Miller said. “Their first game jitters are gone. Hopefully our two scrimmages have prepared us the way we hoped and we can limit our first game mistakes.”
The season opener is important for a variety of reasons for AHS.
The Wildcats are coming off a 0-10 season in 2013 and a win would help give the players much-needed confidence going into the tough region schedule that awaits.
“You always want to win, but high school kids can see their confidence shaken, especially after a season like we had,” Davis said. “That’s why it’s so important for us to do well. That said, win or lose this game will not make our season.
Teams do rebound from losing the season opener. However, we really would like to get this one for confidence.”
Eliminating turnovers will be vital for AHS this week.
“If you don’t win the turnover battle then your chances of winning go way down,” Davis said. “There are not many teams who can overcome that.”