Woodland will begin its second portion of the schedule tonight at home when the team matches up with the 2-5 Paulding County Patriots.
“We have to be our best in order to beat anybody, but we do believe that these last four games are somewhat of a new season for us,” head coach Vincent DiLorenzo said. “The players have worked hard even through the first six games. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. They’ve worked hard and I think they’re looking forward to [tonight].”
The team’s final four opponents have a combined record of 6-16, while the previous six opponents had a combined record of 25-9.
Coincidentally, the Wildcats had a bye in between the two different sections of the schedule, making for a new beginning of sorts.
“I believe our team is looking at it the same way,” DiLorenzo said of his squad starting a new season. “The bye came at the right time.”
One of the advantages of coming off a bye week is the extra time to prepare for the next opponent.
The Wildcats used the extra practice time to prepare for Paulding County’s offensive versatility.
“They do a lot of things offensively. They run the option out of the shotgun and it’s hard to stop. It requires great discipline on the part of our defense,” DiLorenzo said of Paulding County. “It did allow us to spend an extra couple of days working on the option.”
The bye week also helped DiLorenzo’s team get over some key injuries to defensive end Damek Lewis, linebacker Khalil Morris and two-way player Markise Smith.
“The bye week really came at a great time. We were able to rest and get some of our injured players back,” he said. “Those were three keys injuries for us.
“Being able to get some guys back who were injured, we should play with a lot of enthusiasm.”
Morris and Smith had played in games before the bye, but were not feeling 100 percent. The extra week of rest should have them ready to play.
“Khalil Morris actually came back against North Paulding, so he gets another week to get back to his old self,” DiLorenzo said. “Markise Smith is another guy who had a high ankle sprain. He’s a defensive player who plays offense as well. He’s getting better. He played against North Paulding, but it was apparent that he was still hobbled.”
Extra health can only help Woodland, who will be dealing with a Paulding County team that will try to bring pressure.
“They’re a blitzing team. They are going to bring people in almost every play from every direction,” DiLorenzo said of the Patriots. “Their thing is they’re going to slant and stunt, so we’ve been working hard on pass protection and on blocking. Hopefully, we’ll be able to pick up the stunts.”
Executing on offense against a team that blitzes frequently is always a challenge.
“Our guys can run this offense and we keep working at making the right decisions at the skill positions and blocking,” DiLorenzo said. “Our offense has to be more about execution and getting better at what we do. We have a few new wrinkles, but we are still focusing on blocking and taking care of the football.”