The Woodland Wildcats hope they are not the squad to fall victim as they look to win their third consecutive game Friday night at home against Hiram.
“They have a new head coach this year and he’s changed their offense from the Wing-T to the [I-formation]. They went through some growing pains, as most teams do when they change offenses, but recently they’ve gotten better and better at running the offense,” Woodland head coach Vince DiLorenzo said. “They’re a very dangerous football team right now. They’re like us. They’ve played tough teams and we’ve only won one more game than they have. So they’re getting better and better as the season has gone on. They haven’t quit and, every time you put them on the field, they play hard and that is a tribute to their players and their coaches.”
Woodland’s record currently sits at 2-6. The Wildcats are coming off a 22-14 victory over Paulding County at home and a 21-12 win over Lithia Springs on the road.
Hiram lost to Paulding County 23-6 all the way back on Aug. 30, the first game of the season. The Hornets beat Lithia Springs 41-19 on Oct. 4 for their first win and, most recently, played East Paulding to a tight game.
Considering the scores of mutual opponents, the game Friday night looks to be between two evenly matched Region 5-AAAAA teams.
One advantage Woodland has is an extra week of preparation thanks to their bye week. While Hiram was playing region powerhouse Allatoona last week, Woodland was getting ready for the Hornets.
“We were able to work on Hiram last week. We were able to give our players Friday off and, hopefully, they came back rested and ready to play the last two games,” DiLorenzo said. “This time of year, having some time off wasn’t a bad thing. Having some time to work on Hiram’s offense and be able to work on it for two weeks was an advantage for us.”
The extra preparation will be important as Hiram’s offense has improved and will offer the Woodland defense a challenge Friday night.
“They are doing things like the toss sweep, the power boot, they do a great job of running the veil option, so they’re a really well-rounded offense,” DiLorenzo said. “They have a good quarterback and they have two good running backs. They have big, tall receivers and they have gotten better as the year has progressed. Offensively, they’re going to be hitting on all cylinders Friday, so we’re really concerned about stopping them on offense.”
Another concern of DiLorenzo’s is that former Woodland assistant football coach Adrian Steele is now an assistant coach with Hiram. Steele was also the track and field coach and recruiting coordinator for Woodland High.
“Coach Steele, who was at Woodland for 15 years, is now coaching at Hiram. He knows us very well and he knows our players. I’m sure he’s going to have those guys ready to play on Friday,” DiLorenzo said. “In a lot of ways, it’s a disadvantage, because he’s a good football coach. He does a great job with the players, so we miss him here. I think our kids are looking forward to him coming back.”
Hiram has been improving steadily throughout the season. Woodland also has improved, but done so somewhat rapidly in each of the past few weeks. With two featured running backs, seniors Isaiah Ross and Quadre Allen, Woodland has scored a total of 43 points in the last two games. The Wildcats scored just three points in each of their first six games combined.
“We have two games left and we’ve had some success the last couple of weeks running the football and throwing it some. We will continue to do that,” DiLorenzo said. “Our guys look forward to run blocking, but Mason Robinson has gotten more comfortable at quarterback and he’s making some better decisions throwing the football. It’s a matter of taking what the defense gives us, but certainly, we plan on sticking to what has made us successful the last couple of weeks.”