There wasn’t much for Winder-Barrow coach Ed Dudley to say about his team’s frustrating region loss to Dacula last week except that the Bulldoggs need to do a much better job of taking care of the football and turn the page quickly as they prepare for another key GHSA Region 8-AAAAAA battle.
The Bulldoggs (3-3, 1-1 region), who are coming off that ugly 40-15 setback at home against the Falcons, are on a short schedule this week as they prepare to make the trip over to Snellville to take on Shiloh at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7. To get a win over the Generals, the Bulldoggs will need a far better and cleaner performance than the one last week that saw them turn the ball over three times — three interceptions, three fumbles — and let a game they were battling head-to-head in with a team that has their number the last six years — get away quickly.
Three of Winder-Barrow’s turnovers came during a span of roughly eight game minutes from late in the second quarter to the midway point of the third quarter that saw Dacula score 34 unanswered points and flip a 7-6 Bulldogg advantage into a 40-7 rout before the Bulldoggs tacked on a fourth-quarter touchdown.
“Sometimes you win a game, sometimes you lose a game, and we lost that game from our own mistakes,” said Dudley, whose team gave up a touchdown return on an errant snap on its first offensive play of the game, which wound up being a tone-setter for the night. “We’ve got to work on us and fix the mistakes we made. We cannot turn the ball over like that and give people free points. Dacula got (27) points off turnovers, and that was quite literally the difference in the game. And we lost our composure at the end. Battling turnovers and keeping our composure under tough circumstances are what we’ve really got to work on.
“It’s almost impossible to win a game with how we played last week, but this is hopefully going to be a bounce-back week.”
Shiloh (1-4, 1-0) is coming off its first victory of the season last week, a come-from-behind 21-14 triumph over Central Gwinnett in its region opener, propelled by Jeremiah Harden’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Jamir Imuzai with 21 seconds remaining in the contest. The Generals suffered three consecutive one-possession losses to Mountain View (14-13), Denmark (8-0) and South Gwinnett (22-21) to open the year before falling to Westlake 26-6 on Sept. 24, and Dudley was quick to point out that all of those teams are currently .500 or better at this point in the season. Imuzai and Dion McDowell are the two main players to account for out of the backfield offensively, while Dudley said the Generals are “tough” on defense and like to press the receivers with man-to-man coverage.
Winder-Barrow — which saw some success in the run game last week with Aidan Thompson, Jaquan Crawford and Caiden Carruth, who had a 76-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter — will look to continue striving for strong balance and will look for quarterback Conyer Smith to rebound from an uncharacteristically rough game that saw him throw three interceptions, two of which were returned for scores.
“We’ll make the fixes and not let that become a pattern,” Dudley said. “I have every bit of confidence that we’ll learn from our mistakes in the passing game and come back better for it. (Shiloh is) a very talented team, and I think our players know what they’re up against going into this week. They’ve played a very tough schedule leading up to this, so in that aspect there are some similarities between our teams.
“I think it’ll be a great game and a good matchup for us. If we can play well and fix those mistakes, I like our chances to do well. Our defense has been pretty consistent lately. The kicking game has been sound for the most part. The games we’re able to run the football well and put up points in are typically the games we win.”