Now, though, the hard part begins for the Wildcats, who are still in line for a playoff berth. The remaining schedule features back-to-back games with two of Region 7-AAAA’s best teams, including last year’s region and eventual state champion Chattahoochee, which visits Cartersville on Friday.
After losing to current region No. 1 Lambert to start the season, the Cougars have reeled off four straight wins and were able to knock off crosstown rival and previously unbeaten Johns Creek last week.
While the bye week may have been nice for Woodland, it is clearly back to business for the team.
“The off week was good. It came at a good time, halfway through the season. It also came after a win, which is always a good way to go into your off week,” Wildcats coach Vince DiLorenzo said. “But, as I’ve told people, how I judge this season will be judged more on the last five games than the first five games.”
Though not the juggernaut of a year ago when it finished 15-0, Chattahoochee remains a dangerous team as evidenced by the aforementioned overtime win over the Gladiators. The Cougars are averaging 26 points per game and surrendering 16 points per game.
“It starts by [them being] well-coached,” DiLorenzo said of Chattahoochee, which is led by eight-year coach Terry Crowder. “They have some players who have experience being in big games. They are confident. They have a defense that runs [to] the ball very well. Offensively, they have two big backs and a quarterback that runs very well.”
The first-year Woodland coach added that at wide receiver the Cougars have a player who can turn a screen into a long gain. DiLorenzo also praised Chattahoochee’s special teams.
“Two punt returns pretty much beat Northwest Whitfield,” he said of the Cougars’ 28-13 win Sept. 23. “That’s just a solid football team all the way around.”
A win against Chattahoochee could be the signature win needed to propel Woodland down the stretch. The Wildcats three wins have come against teams with a cumulative 3-13 record. The last time Woodland had a chance to beat a team with a winning record — Sept. 16 against Johns Creek — the Wildcats committed three turnovers, including two in the first half, as the Gladiators led by three scores en route to a 28-13 victory.
“Each week we try to correct the mistakes we make the week before, and a good football team makes you pay for smaller mistakes more than a not-so-good team would do. Chattahoochee has a better chance to capitalize on mistakes better than other teams we’ve played might have.
“You learn from each game, and you take each week as, really, a season.”
Since its last defeat, Woodland’s quarterback R.J. Williams has returned to good health, which made a difference in the Wildcats’ 39-13 romp over Forsyth Central Sept. 23. In three victories, Williams has averaged close to 350 total yards while in two losses, games he was less than 100 percent, he has averaged about 130 total yards.
“The injury that kept him out of the second half of the Rome game and took him a little while to get over against [Forsyth] Central, I think he’s fully recovered from,” DiLorenzo said. “We expect him to be the kind of quarterback he is when he’s at his best.”
The Wildcats do not appear to need much motivation to play their best heading into a marquee with a good region opponent.
“We only had one message this week and that’s beat Chattahoochee,” DiLorenzo said. “If you have to say anything more than that, you’re not gonna play with the type of intensity you need to beat a good football team.”
Woodland (3-2, 3-2) and the Cougars (4-1, 4-1) are scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. today. In the two teams’ first-ever meeting last year, Chattahoochee won, 52-14.