If anytime the old adage “from the frying pan into the fire” were true in high school football, that would currently be case for the Apalachee Wildcats.
AHS, who fell last Friday to a much-improved Salem High School team, will finally be at home this week, but will have to face the team which has been dominant in the region in recent years. Gainesville High School is looking for another deep playoff run in 2014 and the Red Elephants are looking to take another step toward that goal this week at R. Harold Harrison Stadium.
“We can’t dwell on last week,” said Wildcat coach Shane Davis. “We are all human and might have tendency to dwell on things which can get you down. We still have kids who are playing hard and still care about being successful. We played hard in the second half last week and I expect nothing less this Friday.” The current situation the AHS football program is trying to dig out of is tough for all involved.
“It’s tough on the coaches and tough on the kids who have to keep coming back the next week,” Davis said. “You add the physical nature of it and it makes it that much tougher. It will certainly be no easier this week.”
Davis has been battling Gainesville football teams even before his long tenure at AHS.
While an assistant coach at Morgan County High School, Davis faced the Red Elephants. Since that time, however, Gainesville has taken its program to an extremely high level.
“There are still some teams this year I have not seen, but until someone proves otherwise, Gainesville is going to be the team to beat,” Davis said of the Region 8-AAAAA battle this fall. “I do think some teams are making up some ground on them. Salem is one team for example from an athletic standpoint. Salem has really improved in the last couple of years. Teams will have the opportunity to match up better with Gainesville.”
One strategy AHS will likely use this week will be to try and limit the number of snaps the Red Elephants have on offense.
Davis has been known to shorten the game as much as possible, using most of the play clock between snaps when the Wildcats have the football.
“Every 25 seconds we use is one less play they can run,” Davis said.
This week’s opponent will also be strong defensively.
“Gainesville is a typical Gainesville team — big, fast and physical,” said AHS offensive coordinator Joel Miller. “They are what you expect a top 10 team to look like. We have to find a way to get better at what we are doing. Penalities, turnovers and missed assignments continue to be issues that we must fix.”
AHS enters this week a banged up squad. Several players are doubtful for this week and if they go they will line up with various nagging injuries.
“We will try to get everyone in as good of shape as we can,” Davis said. “We are banged up across the board. We are monitoring players in practice as well as in games. We have some nagging injuries we are dealing with as well as some significant ones.”
In stopping the Gainesville attack, first-year AHS coordinator Charles Liggett said the Gainesville’s offense is not that complex, but this week’s foe executes extremely well.
“They are not complicated, they are just very talented and very good at what they do,” Liggett said.