Prep Football: East Coweta looking for better outcome at Phenix City
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
The armchair quarterbacks at East Coweta probably haven't been this restless in a while. Of course, the road through the 2012 football season expected to include more than its share of speed bumps early.
The only advice to them for this week's trip to play Central of Phenix City, Ala?
Even four games in, Region 3-AAAAAA play won't begin until early October.
Still, East Coweta head coach Clint Wade knows there's no excuse not to put forth a better effort this Friday against a 3-1 Red Devils team. Kickoff remains 7:30 p.m., despite the time difference in Alabama.
"We've just got to keep on fighting and working hard to get better," Wade said. "We're not happy where we're at right now. It's still early. Everybody in this region's in the same boat, oh and oh. We have a chance to go into next week [a bye] knowing we can be a good football team. But it's going to take a better effort than we had last week. We hope that down the road, it'll pay off."
So far East Coweta has lost three games to opponents with a combined 8-3 record, with Archer nearly adding another win last week in a two-point loss to a ranked Parkview team.
In all three losses, the Indians' offense has struggled and for the second straight week, the unit managed a lone touchdown in a 20-plus point loss to a ranked opponent.
Last Friday's 30-7 defeat at home to Lovejoy, however, seemed to come with less of a fight than the previous 31-7 loss against Class AAAA's No. 1 Sandy Creek.
Unlike a Thursday night loss to the Patriots, where East Coweta moved the ball on offense before running into a series of bad breaks, last week's effort against Lovejoy found the Indians unable to manage a first down until the final four minutes of the third quarter.
"We've got to get something going on offense. We're not doing anything different scheme-wise than we've done the last three years," Wade said. "It all comes down to the guys up front. Blocking and tackling. And we didn't do a very good job blocking and tackling last week. We're struggling right there and we're trying to fix it."
Running backs Dee Godfrey and Weylin Orr have shown the ability to pick up chunks of yards when given room. Godfrey has also been part of stellar special teams units on returns to go with senior kicker and punter Spencer Smith.
"Our special teams have done a good job," Wade said. "That's one area I have no complaints about."
A 1-3 Indians lineup has certainly struggled in other areas over the first month of the season. The schedule, which hasn't been forgiving, doesn't veer from that trend again this week. The 6-A school in Alabama has been on the cusp of a state-ranking in its highest classification despite losing quarterback Jonathan Wallace, now a freshman at Auburn.
First-year starter, Jamal Howard, a junior, has maintained a big-play reputation so far that included a 90-yard touchdown pass during a 34-point second quarter that all but put away Robert E. Lee before halftime in a 54-28 victory.
Central's only loss came in a 37-7 defeat to Opelika where the team was outgained 117-1 in the first quarter where Howard threw a pair of early interceptions.
Last week, however, Howard finished 8 of 10 passing for 218 yards. Sophomore receiver Traveon Samuel, who had the 90-yard touchdown catch in the win over Lee, has equally been a catalyst for an offense that showcases multiple looks under head coach and former NFL linebacker Woodrow Lowe, now in his third year at the helm following a trip to last year's state semifinals.
Samuel rushed for 76 yards out of the Wildcat formation in a 27-14 upset win over Carver-Montgomery while also catching a 71-yard touchdown.
Running back Deon Hall has been hampered by a foot injury early in the season, but received a 54-yard touchdown from Ryan Humphrey in last week's win. Senior 6-foot-6 left tackle Cameron Fraser, a South Florida commitment, has led the offensive line along with guards Jeremiah Payne and Jeron Jones.
Central faced much the same situation as East Coweta in the preseason, needing to replace 14 starters and eight on defense while running a 4-3 front similar to the Indians.
"They've got real good athletes," Wade said. "Their offense is similar to what we try to do."
The Indians, meanwhile, have assured some of the 10 openings on defense they lost in the offseason through four games. Last week, Jemarcus Godfrey's first-quarter interception was an obvious highlight while halting Lovejoy's opening drive just shy of the end zone.
But the Wildcats continuously converted on third downs — including their first-five opportunities. Trailing 10-0 in the final minute of the first half, East Coweta gave up a 34-yard touchdown pass on fourth down that made for an even tougher comeback after halftime.
After giving Lovejoy's receivers space last week, the Indians might be looking to tighten things up against Samuel, a big-play threat this Friday.
"Third and long is somewhere where we've struggled," Wade said. "We knew we were going to have new guys in there and we've tried to keep them up front. But we might have to change what we've been doing. Even if it means there a chance of letting someone get behind them."