Wilcox High’s Patriots will have plenty of them when they host Telfair County’s Trojans in their final regular season game kicking off at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“First of all, our kids are aware of what a win will do — give us a good chance for home field advantage in every playoff game we’re in with the exception of the finals if we’re fortunate enough to make it that far,” Wilcox head coach Mark Ledford said.
“A victory would also allow us to repeat as region (2-A) champs and secure at least the No. 2 spot in the power rankings being used to determine the field for the 16-team playoffs (that start on Nov. 16).
“Plus with it being our first home appearance in a month and our senior night observation, it represents a good chance for us to recognize our 12th graders for all they’ve meant to our program.”
Telfair is not without motivation itself.
One of the hottest teams in the region, a victory would extend the Trojans’ current winning streak to four games, better its report card to 7-3 overall, 4-2 in league play and likely qualify it for postseason play.
If so, it would be a rarity for the school which last made a playoff appearance in 2004 squad when it lost out in the first round of state and finished 6-5.
Its 1993 team did post a perfect 10-0 regular season mark, beat Charlton County 27-12 in the first round of state and lose to Johnson County 16-9 in the second round.
A loss to Wilcox would result in Telfair finishing with a 6-4 mark that would equal the report card of its non-playoff 1994 and 2006 squads.
“The very fact they’ve done as well as they have thus far this season lets our kids know we have to come ready to play,” Ledford said. “They’ve have seen the same game films our coaches have of the Trojans so they know we have to respect them.”
Thus far this season, Telfair has beaten Wheeler (45-21), Baconton Charter (41-0), Southeast Bulloch (28-21), Turner (43-24), Lanier (30-13) and Charlton (29-21). Its losses have come at the hands of Jeff Davis (35-21), Clinch (17-9) and Irwin (55-21).
“They’re probably the surprise team of our region and definitely are its most improved team as second-year head coach Matt Burleson is doing a super job of turning that program around,” Ledford said.
“The main thing you see when viewing them in action is that they’re taking the field not hoping to win but expecting to win. And with their talent and speed, they don’t back off for anybody.
“The 11 guys they have on the field at any team play hard on every offensive and defensive snap as well as on special teams. They’re using that attitude to create opportunities for themselves.”
On offense, Ledford said the Trojans have shown opponents a variety of sets including a wing-T look similar to what the Patriots saw last weekend while posting a hard-fought 28-21 win over Irwin County.
“They’ll also get into the shotgun and throw a little bit,” Ledford said. “When they pass, they do so well as their quarterback does a good job of finding the open receiver as they’ve had some big gains by air.
“When they run, which they do a little more than they throw, they go hard up the middle and also have three backs with the speed to get outside.”
On defense, Ledford said the Trojans employ a very aggressive 3-5 front while stunting and blitzing in an effort to create confusion up front in the opposition’s blocking schemes.
“They’ve got one of the best defensive players we’ve seen in No. 22 who flip-flops at the end positions and a secondary that’s very athletic as evidenced by the two interceptions they returned for touchdowns against Charlton (in a huge upset last Friday night).”
Asked what Wilcox must do in order to come out on top, Ledford said it needs to “play sound in all phases of the game.
“With Telfair seeming to thrive off turnovers, we need to eliminate fumbles and interceptions and we’ve got to take advantage of any scoring opportunities we might have.”
NOTES: When Wilcox won its 2011 meeting with its McRae-based guest by a whopping 56-6 count, it upped its series advantage to 9-1 during which it has outscored Telfair 321-80 and lost only in 2004 by a 23-6 score. ...Both teams enter the clash on winning streaks, with the Patriots having won their last five starts and the Trojans having prevailed in their last three outings. ... The GHSA will release its official 16-team state playoff bracket on Tuesday. Teams in it will have until Wednesday morning to contest the power ranking accorded them.
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