A week after being overpowered by perennial power Allatoona, 50-0, Woodland will host East Paulding, the champ of its region a year ago, at Wildcat Stadium in another matchup that, hopefully, will bring out the best in the Bartow County football team.
Kickoff is Friday at 7:30 p.m. for the teams.
East Paulding and Allatoona finished first and second, respectively, in their region a year ago.
But one big difference from last season is that East Paulding has already lost a game this year, bowing 27-13 to North Paulding, which finished fourth in the region a year ago. It did not even lose a regular season game last year.
The regular-season loss by East Paulding likely guarantees the Raiders will be motivated to right their course when they visit the Wildcats, and Woodland can expect a challenging evening.
Last year the Raiders earned an 11-1 mark with a 35-6 loss coming against Stephenson in the second round of the state playoffs. They averaged 38 points per game while giving up 12 points.
Vince DiLorenzo, Woodland head coach, said the region is a tough one and its winner is subject to change each season.
“We thought North Paulding all along would be tough this year, and they certainly proved that,” he said. “As for East Paulding, I don’t think they need any more incentive when they play us.”
DiLorenzo said East Paulding is one of the teams in the region that is competitive most every year.
“They have a good feeder system that starts when they’re young,” he said. “They have a good recreation program, and it takes their youngsters through middle school to high school.”
With those resources, it’s no wonder the Raiders expect to challenge for the region title often.
DiLorenzo said East Paulding is built to provide a balanced attack.
“They are primarily an I football team,” he said. “They have play-action passes off their runs. They have a balanced attack and do whatever they feel will work. They like to establish the run first and then use play-action passes off that.”
He said Woodland expects a challenge again this year from the Raiders, but that’s nothing new and it’s something the team must learn to handle.
“In our first three games, starting with Cartersville, every phase of our game was tested, whether it was kickoffs, offense and defense, substitution, sideline management, what have you,” he said. “All that has to work together if we are to beat the caliber of teams we play in our region.
“It’s a challenge every week. Our players go both ways. We have to stay away from injuries and turnovers to have a chance of winning.”
DiLorenzo said one constant for his team has been the effort it puts forth to improve.
“They started working hard last year, and they continue to work hard in practice and they play hard,” he said. “We have almost a new football team each year with almost every player at a different position. Ours is a process where we try to get better each week.”
He said Woodland also knows each year it’s going to be challenged by very good football teams.
“We have played the No. 2 team in our region from a year ago and we are playing the No. 1 team this week,” he added. “It’s tough because both of these teams made it a good way in the state playoffs last year but that’s just the way it is.
“All we can do is keep getting ready each week to play them. Now we are getting ready for East Paulding and it’s the most important game of our year so far.”