Published Friday, October 12, 2012

Prep Football: Struggling East Coweta starts 2nd half on solid ground


East Coweta head football coach Clint Wade’s level of content may have dropped quite a few notches during the first five games of the 2012 schedule.

But as the leader of a 1-4 Indians team, he hasn’t lost his wit, even though his mind has been preoccupied with trying to turn the Indians around over the final half of the regular season.

“It’s a little different around here, that’s for sure,” said Wade, who has been in the program for two decades as a coach. “Things haven’t been like this in a while.”

He’s right. East Coweta hasn’t lost four games this quickly since either Wade or predecessor Danny Cronic patrolled the Indians sidelines. The last ECHS team to start 1-4 was the 1986 lineup back when the program played in Region 5-A with the likes of Heard County and Greenville.

Back then, such a start may have been more tolerated for a young program trying to find its way. But not for a team looking to continue a streak of 15 consecutive state playoff seasons.

The good news, however, is that none of the previous game will matter as long as East Coweta wins the majority of its final five games.

“We’ve got five opportunities,” said Wade, echoing the sentiments of a former Indians player this week who is now a head coach at a high school further down Highway 154. “We’ve got to face them one step at a time.”

Preparing for tonight’s trip to Westlake as well as both teams’ Region 3-AAAAAA opener, East Coweta still finds itself in a familiar position despite an unfamiliar record.

Following a tough 33-31 loss at Central of Phenix City two weeks ago, the Indians can possibly cleanse themselves of their early season struggles tonight against a Lions program that may provide plenty of motivation.

Last season, Westlake — going through some struggles of its own — walked into Garland Shoemake Stadium last year and stunned East Coweta in a 31-21 Homecoming loss behind the play of quarterback Renard Battle, who threw for 154 yards and a touchdown on 12 of 18 passing through three quarters and looking a lot like another football alumnus — Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

The loss forced the Indians to dig for a win over Newnan to close the regular season in order to finish ahead of the Lions for the final state playoff berth from Region 2-AAAAA.

“Yeah I know him,” said Wade sarcastically. “I know him all too well.”

While winless, an 0-5 Westlake team in its first year under former Atlanta Falcons fullback Stanley Pritchett — who led Washington to three consecutive winning seasons before a season at North Atlanta and his eventual arrival on staff this year —has gone through similar struggles in its 2012 schedule while making the jump to Class AAAAAA.

So far there’s been a tough opening loss at Hillgrove where Westlake led early, a seven-point loss at South Cobb and a two-point loss to Banneker. The Lions’ other losses have come to 4-2 Creekside (18-7) and 3-2 Bainbridge (38-14).

“They’re still Westlake. They’re going to get into an I [formation] with two tight-ends and then they’re going to try and spread it out.”

Track standout Joshua Poole, who missed most of the first half of the season, should be back in the lineup at running back, joining receivers Kaleb Green and Eric Hines as big-play threats.

The Lions’ 4-3 defense is led by middle-linebacker Tyrone Pope (6-2, 215) and a secondary including junior Terrance Montgomery (5-9, 165) and transfer Lonnie Perryman.

Both teams should be as healthy as they’ve been since the start of the season. The Lions haven’t played since Sept. 21 while East Coweta is coming off a welcomed bye week.

“I don’t know. I hope that’s a benefit for us,” Wade said.

The Indians are coming off arguably its best offensive performance of the season considering the opponent. East Coweta racked up 441 total yards of offense two weeks ago against Central (5-1).

Senior running back Dee Godfrey finished with 178 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries while junior Weylin Orr added 78 and a touchdown on 14 touches.

The Indians passing game also performed well. Junior first-year starter Bryce Gemmel was 9 of 16 passing for 139 yards with both Godfrey and Wyatt Potter sharing eight receptions for 105 yards of his total.

“We scored some points, which was good to see,” Wade said. “But we also gave up a lot of points.”

Defense — where East Coweta entered the season with a bare cupboard among just one returning starter – has been a notable sore spot since the team’s season opening 35-7 thrashing of Henry County, a 1-5 team.

Since then, the Indians have allowed an average of just over 30 points per game, much of it coming on long plays. Lovejoy scored on touchdowns of 37 and 34 yards in the second quarter of its victory over East Coweta.

Last week against Central, the Red Devils scored on runs of 38, 26 and 65 yards before Ryan Humphrey’s two-yard touchdown with 2:28 left provided the eventual game-winner in a back-and-forth second half.

Wade hasn’t been as concerned as much with the effort than he has the execution.

“We’ve got good kids and they’ve been resilient for the most part,” he said. “But after playing defense the way we did [against Central] we got after it. We’ve got to tighten things up and do a better job of tackling than we’ve been doing.”

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