The game will be a slight deviation of the last few years for Woodland, which last won a season-opening football game against Adairsville three years ago. Avoiding complacency following an emotional win will be key for the Wildcats if they hope to add to their winning start.
“I thought about that all weekend … because it is easy when it’s a rivalry game like we had,” said first-year Woodland coach DiLorenzo of impending complacency. “ I’ve had a couple of teams that have done that and taking that approach … and ended up crying in the locker room.
“You can’t really enjoy the season until the season’s over.”
There will be plenty for Woodland to work on in spite of last week’s win. Though the Wildcats established control of the game with four scores in the first half — including three touchdowns in the second quarter — to grab a halftime lead, they allowed the Colonels back into the game.
The defense came alive again toward the end of the game to clinch the victory for Woodland as defensive end Chandler Royal stripped the ball from Cass quarterback Brandon Etheridge and carried it 2 yards for the final score of the game. The Wildcats forced another Etheridge turnover when Isiah Ross caused a fumble, which was recovered by Shelby Townsend and allowed them to run out the clock.
DiLorenzo said afterward that his defense has the potential to be great but must improve in some areas, including the secondary. The unit looked good as it practiced ahead of its game with an offense that will challenge it with movement, among other things.
“I was really pleased with the way they practiced,” DiLorenzo said. “South Forsyth presents us with some problems with the way they like to change the formation from one side to the other. … It is something that the players have to be aware of.”
The Woodland coach added that the War Eagles will go from a two- to a three-point stance.
“You have to be disciplined and stay onside and watch the football,” DiLorenzo said, adding that the Wildcats must know how to align themselves, in order to play fast. “They can’t be thinking about where they need to line up.”
Offensively, there is not much to nitpick from the Wildcats’ 400-plus yard performance, one that saw first-year varsity starter R.J. Williams throw for three touchdowns and one interception as well as rush for two more scores.
“Well, R.J. had 487 yards of offense with his passing completions and his rushing. That’s unbelievable. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a quarterback have that many yards,” DiLorenzo said. “Again, when something like that happens, there are some good and bad [things].”
While the offense turned in an exceptional performance, he knows that will not be the norm, even if it is the goal.
“That doesn’t happen all that often. There will be games we’ll have to win 14-10,” continued DiLorenzo. “You get the feeling after a game like that that’s how it’s gonna happen every week.”
That may not be the case, as DiLorenzo acknowledged, but Woodland strives for such production in its spread offense.
“We expect to score in this offense,” DiLorenzo said. “With the five receivers that we have and Cambrell [Turner] at running back, as well as R.J., I think we have as many offensive weapons as I’ve ever had as a coach. … With all of that, you would think defenses would have a hard time focusing on one person and that’s a good thing.”
This week, the Wildcats face a physical War Eagles defense that held Forsyth Central to 6 points in its team’s 18-point win.
“They’re big and they’re well-coached. I think that, again, our philosophy is to spread the field and then to force them to defend all of it and take whatever we think they’re giving us,” DiLorenzo said. “We’re going to attack them the way we’re going to attack everybody.”
Woodland (1-0, 1-0 Region 7-AAAA) and South Forsyth (1-0, 1-0) are scheduled to play at 7:30 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium.