Tonight will be the last game for the 2017 Woodland High football team, and soon it will be time to reflect on a season that showed marked improvement for the Wildcats, winning more games this year than the previous three combined.
However, there will not be any pomp and circumstance in the air tonight for Woodland, as the ’Cats will have their hands full with a road game at No. 1-ranked, defending state champ Rome.
“They know it’s the last game of the season, and it’s Rome, so we’ve got some kids that are excited and want to compete against some top-level competition,” Woodland head coach Tony Plott said. “They’re a great program. They’ve got great coaching. They’ve got great athletes. They are what they are for a reason. Like every other team in the state, we want to get there also, and this kind of tells where we’re at, and we can kind of see where we stand against somebody like that.”
When talking about Rome, the discussion begins with a defense that allows less than two touchdowns a game and features the best defensive line in the state.
Georgia commit Adam Anderson plays defensive end for the Wolves, and he’s one of the top 50 prep prospects in the Class of 2018.
“He’s everything everybody says. He’s big, he’s athletic, he’s worthy of every accolade that he gets. I’m not sure that I’ve seen anybody handle him very well on film,” Plott said of Anderson. “We’re going to try a couple of things. I don’t know if they’ll work, but yeah, we have something we want to do.”
Anderson is far from a one-man show, though, as each of the other three starting defensive linemen are committed to Division-I programs — Jaquon Griffin to LSU, Jamarcus Chatman to Tennessee and T.J. Cammack to Navy.
That defensive line is a major reason why the Wolves are undefeated and the favorites to win the Class 5A state championship, along with Buford.
Another reason why Rome will be in state title contention is a well-balanced, dynamic offense, led by a stable of Division-I running back and a quarterback with plenty of college offers to choose from as well.
Running backs Jamious Griffin and Jalynn Sykes have combined to rush for nearly 1,600 yards so far this year, and signal caller Knox Kadum currently sports an impressive 76 percent completion rate to go along with averaging more than 13 yards per pass attempt.
The offense-defense balance is why Rome has yet to play a game decided by single digits this year.
“Defensively, they’re as good as anybody we’ve ever seen. They are loaded,” Plott said. “Obviously, their talent level may be a little better, but coaching-wise, the entire program, they’re doing everything right at Rome High School.”
Rome has come along way since John Reid took over as the head coach in 2014.
Woodland’s biggest win in the last five years came against Rome the season before Reid was hired, a 36-34 thrilling victory for the Wildcats in the 2013 season finale.
Since then, though, Rome has become one of the premier programs in the state.
“We just want to compete, go out there and give it our best shot and see how things turn out,” Plott said of tonight’s 7:30 p.m. game at Barron Stadium. “Just leave it all on the field and hopefully good things happen for us. ... Play hard for four quarters, and kind of use this as a measuring stick of where we are and where we need to be.”
As for reflecting on Woodland’s improvement this year, Plott said there will be time for that after the season.
“Not yet,” he said. “I think after we finish this and do some of the banquets and stuff like that, then it’ll be time to kind of reflect on it. Obviously, there was some good. There’s not enough of it. We’re not where we want to be, and that’s kind of fuel for the fire to keep getting better.”