NOT YOUR UNCLE'S WILDCATS — If you were to hop in your DeLorean, travel back to 2016 and tell a local that the Woodland High football team played a game in which it was the one that subjected an opponent to a running clock in the second half — not the other way around — you would have been laughed out of Bartow.
However, just a couple of seasons removed from a three-year stretch when Woodland went 1-29, the Wildcats shellacked East Hall Friday night, 55-6, earning two wins in 2018 before the calendar even reached September.
Those who were in attendance Friday night at Wildcat Stadium witnessed a bit of history. The 49-point spread against East Hall is the widest margin of victory ever for a Woodland High football team.
For context on how far the program has come in recent years, not only did Woodland go 0-10 in 2016, but its lowest margin of defeat was 13 points.
The previous mark for highest margin of victory was held by the 2008 team, which beat Osborne 48-0 to start the year 3-0, and the 1999 team, which beat Southeast Whitfield 48-0. The 1999 team went on to be the only state-playoff team in program history, while the 2008 team went 5-5, tied with 2000 and 2003 for the second-best marks in program history.
In another milestone from Friday night's big win, Woodland scored 55 points for the first time since 2011 when the Wildcats beat South Forsyth in its second game of the season. Including Friday night and that 2011 game, Woodland has scored 55 or more four times — a 55-16 win over East Paulding in 2003 and a 57-12 win over Ridgeland in 2002 being the others.
The 2-0 start to this season also marks just the fifth time in Woodland's 21 years of football that the Wildcats have started a season with two wins — 2011, 2008, 2004 and 2000 were the others.
While there is plenty of feel-good to go around after such an impressive win, the real season starts next week with the Region 7-AAAAA opener at Cass. Region games will determine if Woodland is playoff bound for the first time since the fabled '99ers when the program was still in its infancy.
In a region that lays claim to being the most competitive in Class 5A, a peek at the Region 7-AAAAA schedule reveals that the Wildcats' five toughest games are likely their last five.
While making history in August is encouraging, making history in November is what the players and coaches are striving for. The stretch from the last Friday in September to the first in November will determine if the Wildcats can become just the second group in program history, along with the '99 squad, to finish a year with an above-.500 record.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, PLAY-ACTION — The Cartersville High football team utilized a productive running game in its Week 1 win over Allatoona on Aug. 17, amassing 207 yards on the ground that day, 57 percent of its offensive output.
So with Luella keeping an eye on running back Marcus Gary's magically quick feet Friday night, the Canes pulled out a little "now you see it, now you don't" with play-action fakes to Gary.
On Cartersville's third play of its first possession in its 55-3 win against Luella, quarterback Tee Webb faked the handoff to Gary and then faked a handoff to receiver on a reverse. The run fakes caught Luella completely out of position, with both corners and safeties approaching the line of scrimmage. That led to an uncovered Kaleb Chatmon streaking downfield for a 48-yard touchdown catch.
The very next offensive series for Cartersville, facing a second-and-8, Webb again faked to Gary, the Luella linebackers charged the line, and tight end Jackson Lowe snuck over the top of the linebackers for a 14-yard passing play. Two plays later, Cartersville was into the end zone for its second score of the game.
On the fourth play of the third offensive series, Webb again faked to Gary, but to a different outcome. After faking the pitch to the left, Webb kept the ball and took off to the right with plenty of running room as the defense followed Gary. Webb went on to run for 24 yards on the second-and-5 play, reaching the red zone and scoring two plays later for a 20-0 lead.
According to Webb, the play-action game and fakes to Gary were things the Canes felt they could succeed with after watching film on Luella.
"We noticed all week that they like to follow the back instead of staying with me," Webb said of the Lions' linebackers. "So we worked on that all week."
"We just tried to mix it up," head coach Joey King said when asked about the success of play-action passes. "We were conscious of busting up some tendencies and stuck to the game plan. The kids knew the game plan inside and out. I thought they did a good job of executing it."
The end result was 242 passing yards in the first half with the starters in, compared to 112 rushing yards — 68 percent of the first-half offensive output coming from the passing game in Week 2 after a run-oriented offense in Week 1.
THE DOMINANCE IS IN THE DETAILS — With a 55-3 win, there's going to be some gaudy numbers from Friday night's Cartersville win. However, combing through those statistics, some are hard to fathom.
First up is field position. With the starters in during the first half, the Canes had an average starting field position of Luella's 44-yard line. That kind of stat hasn't been all that uncommon for Cartersville in recent years, but it does speak to the effort of the defense and solid special teams.
Up next is the yardage disparity. Cartersville had 354 yards of total offense in the first half, while Luella had negative-13. That begs the question, "How is that even possible?" Well, first, Cartersville scored a touchdown on each of its eight first-half possessions, maximizing the yardage gained given its field position to start drives. Defensively, Luella called 13 run plays in the first half and six of them ended in the backfield and three more went for no gain. Just two Luella run plays went for more than two yards in the half. Add in three sacks for 18 yards of losses, and just two first-half completions for a combined six yards, and you get negative-13 yards of offense in a half, even with Cartersville subs beginning to roll in midway through the second quarter.
A few more miscellaneous stats:
• Cartersville faced a third down only twice in eight first-half drives. One of those third downs was converted on a 3-yard touchdown run and the other was converted when Luella went offsides on a Cartersville hard count. The Canes only faced a second down eight times in those eight drives. That's because Cartersville averaged 13.3 yards per play on first downs. The Canes also averaged 16.4 yards on second-down plays.
• Of Cartersville's eight first-half drives, four took less than 44 seconds of game clock to score, and none of the eight scoring drives took longer than 2 minutes, 22 seconds. Two were one-play scoring drives.
• Cartersville had 15 first-half first downs to Luella's one.
• According to the DTN's stat keeping, quarterback Tee Webb went 10-for-10 on passes that travelled less than 10 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage. He had no passes attempted that travelled 10-20 yards and was 2-of-4 on passes that travelled 20-plus yards for an impressive 50-percent completion rate downfield, albeit in a small sample size against an overmatched opponent.
• Senior defensive end and Wake Forest commit Isaiah Chaney had 1 1/2 sacks and was involved in three tackles for losses.
BUILD A WALL, AND LUELLA'S GOING TO PAY FOR IT — It goes without saying the Canes couldn't have had the offensive success they did Friday night without dominant offensive line play.
If you had the chance to go on the field after the game for King's postgame address to the team, it is obvious up close and personal that Cartersville's 2018 starting five is noticeably bigger than in previous years, for whatever that's worth.
While the O-line play has been stellar two games in a row, blocking downfield by receivers also sprang several big plays against Luella.
Notably, Marquail Coaxum drove a Luella defender down the field and nearly through the end zone on Harrison Allen's 39-yard touchdown on a running back screen pass. Earlier in the game, Jackson Lowe and a host of Canes sealed a tunnel for Kaleb Chatmon to run 34 yards for a first-quarter touchdown on a quick screen.
"That's one of the points of emphasis from summer camp until now was perimeter blocking," King said. "And I thought our effort has gotten better. We have to continue to be more physical once we get our hands on them. But, man, that long one that Harrison scored on, those guys were blocking all the way downfield. It was awesome."
Receivers are called receivers and not blockers for a reason, though, and they performed admirably in their day jobs as well, specifically Chatmon. He was held without a catch in the Week 1 game against Allatoona. Meanwhile, Tennessee commit Lowe had just one catch for seven yards in the season opener.
Chatmon finished Friday's game with three catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns, while Lowe had three receptions for 26 yards.
Both will have bigger games as the season progresses, and King said after Friday's game he wasn't too concerned with making an extra effort to get his two Division-I pass catching targets involved.
"Not specifically," King said of getting Lowe and Chatmon involved in the game plan. "Most of the touches we try to get are on the screen game and stuff. It's just about who's open this night and who's not. That's what we talked about before the game in our meetings, taking what they give you and trusting those big plays will come, and they opened up for us [Friday night]."