Prep Football: East Coweta hunts for win, playoff berthBy CHRIS GOLTERMANN
When it comes to a loss, most high school football coaches would love to suffer from short-term memory loss.
By Saturday morning, East Coweta head coach Clint Wade probably would have welcomed a case of amnesia — at least to get through the weekend.
That’s a positive for the Indians heading into this week’s Region 3-AAAAAA game at Douglas County after going through what looked to be a spirited practice on Halloween eve. East Coweta is hoping for more treats than tricks against the Tigers a week after haunting itself with key turnovers that helped Hughes continue its climb to the top of the region standings.
But at 2-1 in the region, the Indians (3-5 overall) are still on pace to clinch the program’s 16th consecutive state playoff berth with a victory at Douglas County on Friday.
“I’ve said it a bunch of times. These kids have great attitudes,” Wade said. “Look at them. They’re right back at it [Tuesday]. The biggest thing I’m looking for is for us to improve every week.”
Timely mistakes were as much a reason for East Coweta’s inability to stay close game with the Panthers last Friday in Fairburn. Two costly fumbles, one on defensive lineman Clifton Strong amazing interception and return, gave Hughes two extra possessions on either side of halftime while tied 14-14 at the break.
The latter came at the Panthers’ 4-yard line with the Indians looking to potentially tie the game at 21.
With only two region games remaining, however, taking advantage of this week’s opportunity — knowing Newnan is headed to Sharpsburg for the annual regular season finale — is equally important. A win Friday clinches at least a playoff berth with another against Newnan the following week likely to determine second place in the region and a first-round game at home.
The Tigers (2-6, 1-2) didn’t give Newnan much breathing room in last week’s 21-13 loss that took a detour after Douglas County missed a final extra-point attempt that could have tied the game with 6:59 remaining.
The Cougars put together a final scoring drive and used Terrence Geter’s interception with just over a minute remaining to clinch the victory.
“We knew they were a good team. We had seen them earlier in the year,” Newnan head coach Mike McDonald said of Douglas County after the win. “With their off week, they made a lot of changes. They’ve added some things that the quarterback will run. They weren’t doing that at the first part of the year. They keep adding a series to it.”
Senior Ellis Richardson and tailback Terrell Gibson presented problems for the Cougars’ defense at times while also benefitting from mistakes by the Tigers.
Richardson was forced to fall on three fumbled snaps during the game and Douglas County routinely hurt its field position with eight penalties, including one that negated a first-quarter field goal.
Yet he managed to finish 6 of 13 passing for 115 yards, including a key 57-yard touchdown pass to Gibson off play-action to open the third quarter to immediately cut Newnan’s 14-point lead in half.
“We knew the last couple of weeks they had been using the quarterback to run the speed [option] and countering off of it. And [Friday] they started to play action off of it,” McDonald said. “We knew they were going to do it with their [receivers] but they did it with their running backs.”
Gibson, who had five of Douglas County’s receptions for 147 yards, also ran for 83 including two key third-down conversions on the Tigers 13-play drive to open the game. It stalled on Newnan’s 29-yard line following a penalty that negated a 41-yard field goal by Juan Serna.
The team didn’t get back on the scoreboard until Gibson’s catch-and-run to end his team’s opening drive of the second half.
“Everybody’s going to be better at this time of the year,” Wade said. “Their quarterback does a good job executing and you can tell number 12 [Gibson] is a whole lot stronger than he looks. Those two really help make things go for them.”