For the second time in four years, Wilcox County and Greenville High are about to face each other in the first round of the Class A public school state playoffs.
The re-match of the initial contest played in 2009 at Greenville where the visiting Patriots defeated the host Patriots 39-19 on their way to the state championship, will be played here Friday night. Kickoff time is 7:30 p.m.
The playing site isn’t the only thing that will be reversed for the encounter as this time it’s Wilcox, not Greenville, that enters the scrap as a champion of its region (2-A).
Entering the initial clash, Greenville was the unbeaten (10-0) 4-A titlist and Wilcox was the 2-A runner-up to Twiggs County with a record (8-2) identical to the one it currently owns.
“I don’t know how many starters they return from their 2009 team, but we have a couple of seniors — (quarterback) Makail Grace and (wide receiver) Jonathan Howard — who started against them as freshmen,” Wilcox coach Mark Ledford said. “Hopefully, they’ll be able to join their teammates in boasting of a second career win over Greenville.”
As the No. 2 seed in the Class A public school power rankings at 14.46, Wilcox will be favored to do just that since Greenville checks in with a 5-5 record, a fourth place finish in Region 4-A and a No. 12 seed at 11.033.
Ledford is quick to caution, though, that his team can’t afford to take the guest squad lightly.
“They’re ‘old school’ so to speak as with an effective power running game and an aggressive defense they’re a very formidable opponent that sticks to its game plan and challenges you to show you can physically whip them.”
Every snap Greenville makes comes with its quarterback (Jamal McKee) under center. None of its plays start from today’s highly popular shotgun formation.
Its smash-mouth style of football is primarily geared to attacking between the tackles while issuing the unspoken challenge of, “This is what we do; stop us if you can.”
Greenville takes the same hard-nosed approach on defense where its basic intention has been to take away the opposition’s running game in the belief that its secondary has athletes who can defend the pass well.
“In viewing game video of them in action, they seem to be a pretty sound team,” Ledford said. “Their offense isn’t flashy, but it is effective in what it does. They operate from I-formation directed by a tall quarterback who doesn’t run a lot but is a very accurate passer.
“They don’t use a lot of sets or plays, seemingly preferring to run right at you and quite frequently pulling their guards and tackles who help make up a pretty athletic offensive line.
“They’ve got a couple of backs who run with a lot of power, a tall 6-4 or 6-5 wide receiver who most of the time is their go-to guy when they do throw and a huge (280-pound) tight end they like to slip out and throw to if he’s left uncovered.”
When it comes to defense, Ledford said Greenville aligns in a basic 4-4 front from which it likes to bring pressure with a linebacking corps led by No. 23 who seems to make tackles all over the field.
“They’ve been pretty effective at stopping the run, but at times have been susceptible to the pass. Hopefully, we’ll be able to take advantage of that by making sure we protect Makail and give him time to find his receivers.”
In addressing last week’s open date set up to give the GHSA time to establish its power rankings and playoff brackets for the state’s smallest schools, Ledford had mixed feelings.
“In one respect, it was good in that the extra time let us get all of our Game 1 starters fully healthy which is a great thing at this point of the season.
“On the other hand, I’m a little concerned about the likelihood of us being as sharp Friday night as we were the last few weeks of the regular season.
“Compounding that problem is the fact that with school out this week (on a Thanksgiving holiday break) we’re not in our normal routine which is always a concern, I think, to any coach.
“Greenville is in the same boat, though, so the outcome of this one could pretty much boil down to a case in which the team that comes out on top will be the one that adjusts best to the situation we’re both facing.”
NOTES: The teams have met one common opponent — Dooly County, which dropped a 28-14 decision to Wilcox and edged Greenville 28-21. ... Wilcox has outscored its 10 regular season opponents 311-165 while Greenville has a 256-186 advantage over its foes. ... Working on a six-game winning streak, the host Patriots will also be gunning for a fourth straight shutout victory at home where they have prevailed in 40 of their last 42 starts.