The Wildcats will play a winless Lithia Springs team on the road today who is still searching for its own identity.
“Offensively, they’re talented, actually,” Woodland head coach Vince DiLorenzo said. “They run from a spread offense most of the time, but they’re trying to figure out exactly how to utilize the players that they have. So they do a number of things.”
Unlike Lithia Springs, Woodland has found its identity in recent weeks thanks to a strong running game, which had been largely absent earlier this season and last year.
“I think that Isaiah Ross and being able to utilize him on offense, without worrying whether we are tiring him, has been big,” DiLorenzo said. “And Quadre [Allen] is the other side of that coin. I do feel like being able to run the football and, Isaiah in particular, has helped us establish a running game, which helps us throw the football.”
Woodland ran for 159 yards last week against Paulding County.
“Our offensive line would much rather run block than pass block. They would much rather drive their man down the field than keep them from getting to the quarterback. It’s a lot more fun run blocking than pass blocking. I have had a couple of lineman tell me how much the enjoyed run blocking and how much they enjoyed particular plays that we ran when they tried to mash the guy across for them. So that definitely helps energize the offensive line.”
The running game seems to be on the right track the last few weeks, so the challenge is now to develop consistency and to carry over the style of play form week to week. DiLorenzo is hoping his players do not rest on their laurels after defeating Paulding County and recognize that their opposition is in a similar situation to what the Wildcats were in last week. Lithia Springs, like Woodland, has fallen victim to the tough Region 5-AAAAA schedule. The squad has not won a game this year and are likely looking at the one-win Woodland team as a chance to earn its first victory of the season.
“Although they haven’t won a game yet, I’m sure those kids believe this week they’ll have an opportunity to win,” DiLorenzo said of Lithia Springs. “They look at us on their schedule and see a team that is similar to us in that we’ve won one game. And we’re playing them at [Lithia Springs]. So every week we talk about playing as hard as we can and our goal is to play hard for four quarters, play with enthusiasm and play with emotion, and that’s what we are going to do again [today].”
Also working against Woodland, DiLorenzo’s coaching staff does not have a bye week to allow for extra preparation time, which is unlike last week’s Paulding County game.
“One of the hard things about preparing for them is that they have done so many different things on offense that it’s hard to know exactly what you’re going to face Friday night,” DiLorenzo said.
Making preparation even harder for the Woodland coach has been the absences of players during early week practices.
“Well actually, this is fall break and we had 26 people missed practice [Tuesday] and 22 missed practice on Monday. It seems there wasn’t a whole lot of emphasis this week put on practice by our players and that’s a real disappointment,” DiLorenzo said. “There’s so many other players, for one reason or another, that decided the commitment they made to play football didn’t mean very much, so we’ve had a very difficult time preparing. We’ve had a very difficult time running a scout offense and defense, and a difficult time working on the kicking game.”
Even with less than ideal preparation time, DiLorenzo is counting on his team to play hard when the lights are turned on.
“I think we like the feeling of victory and the guys who have been at practice have been doing a great job,” he said. “The players want to taste victory again, so I’m confident that we will go out and give a great effort.”