The Wildcats (3-3 in their region) were manhandled by Chattahoochee, 58-20, at home. They opened the year with two wins, suffered two losses then got back on the winning track two weeks ago. The Longhorns, who had ripped off five wins in a row, were unceremoniously dumped 23-0 from the ranks of the unbeatens by Johns Creek in a game last Friday night that saw them suffer the first shutout in their two-year varsity history while dropping out of the state coaches poll, where they had been ranked No. 8.
In that loss, the Longhorns, one of three teams tied for the region lead, fumbled the ball three times and quarterback David Broadus tossed three interceptions.
Woodland coach Vince DiLorenzo said preparation by the Wildcats started not with the Longhorns but rather with Chattahoochee and trying to understand why Woodland lost to them last week.
The Wildcats were outscored 34-20 in the first half of that contest but stayed within striking distance. However they drew a blank offensively in the second half, giving up 24 unanswered points as the Cougars totaled almost 600 yards of offense.
DiLorenzo said he expects his team to take such losses hard.
“It was embarrassing to not be able to slow them down [offensively] for three and a half quarters,” he said. “Again, to play poorly offensively and not score but a couple of touchdowns early, when that happens, it better make us angry and hurt. It’s the sort of thing where ... you can’t wait to go to work so that you can get that taste out of your mouth.”
Lambert will provide another stern test for the Wildcats as they are tied with Johns Creek and Chattahoochee for the region lead. They have been good offensively and defensively thus far this season, averaging 27 points per game while giving up 12 points.
Coached by Sid Maxwell, the Longhorns have wins against Northwest Whitfield, 28-7, Chattahoochee, 24-7, Creekview, 24-21, South Forsyth, 48-7, and Forsyth Central, 41-7.
They will be looking to be less charitable to their opponents in the turnover department. The Longhorns pass and run the ball well and have players capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Just two weeks ago Longhorn running back Daniel Myers had 167 yards on 17 carries for two touchdowns against Central Forsyth. Broadus, their quarterback, can attack a defense through the air and on the ground. They have given up some turnovers but their defense is stout enough to usually overcome those.
The Wildcats, who are tied for fifth in the region with Northwest Whitfield, are scoring 28 points per game and surrendering 26 points.
Their wins are over Cass (39-26), South Forsyth (55-23) and Forsyth Central (39-13). The Wildcat losses also have been to Rome (13-7) and Johns Creek (28-13).
When the Wildcats have been healthy, they have earned a lot of yardage through the air as R.J. Williams has assumed control of more and more of the weapons in the Woodland arsenal. Their defense had been growing increasingly stingy until the Chattahoochee loss.
DiLorenzo said the Wildcats will be looking to limit what the Longhorns do well and build a game plan that incorporates areas where Woodland can have success.
“Just like with any team we play,” the Woodland coach said, “we need to win the battle of field position, not give up the big play, make them drive the ball a long way to score and we play with emotion.”
He expects the Wildcats to respond to tonight’s challenge and to continue to grow as a program. “We are attempting to build a championship program where it hurts our players to lose and when they do, they come out working harder to win.”
He said he’s seen some of that attitude in the Wildcats but Lambert will challenge all of that.
“We have had a good week of practice,” he said. “The test will come in the game. There will be peaks and valleys, and we’ll see if we can withstand the storm that’s coming and match it with our own and then sustain that.”
Last year Lambert won their matchup, 21-7. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.