Reining in the rolling Wolves

Seven-to-six is not pasted all over Wesleyan's locker room.

The players don't need to see the score of their last lost this season to remember it. They also don't need a reminder of where it happened or whom it happened against.

And they don't need to be reminded that tonight is a chance to recoup some of the pain of that lost when they host Holy Innocents' for the second time this season.

"That has occurred to us and to our kids," Wesleyan head coach Franklin Pridgen said. "Honestly, that is not something that we are dwelling on.

"That is something for the fans."

Rather, Pridgen is asking his team of school-record setters to transcend visceral emotions of revenge and vengeance for a more measured and objective approach.

"Everyone on campus is talking about the rematch. We are not," Pridgen said. "I am asking them to focus on what they have to do in terms of executing the game plan for what we have to do. There is no bulletin board material. We want to be completely focused on what we have to do to beat Holy Innocents' and we'll let everyone else take care of the emotional stuff."

Two months have passed since the 7-6 loss and Wesleyan is a changed football team. The loss to the Golden Bears dropped the Wolves to 1-2 on the year. From there, the won eight straight to set a school record for consecutive wins and claimed the school's first region championship.

"They are very much improved from the first time we played," said Holy Innocents' head coach Ryan Livezey, a Norcross grad, whose Titan have met Wesleyan three times since 2006. "We know each other pretty well and to some degree what to expect."

Wesleyan's offense runs more I-back formation rather than spread and the Wolves rely more on quarterback Conor Welton. The defensive scheme is new and the wins bolstered the team's confidence.

"There is a lot more water under the bridge now than when we played back in September," Pridgen said. "Both teams have figured out who they are."

For the Golden Bears, the offensive exploded after the close win. No team has held them to less than 10 and in their seven wins since the Wesleyan game they averaged 37 points from their spread option led by quarterback Will Allen, the team's leading rusher and passer. The most the defense has allowed in any game is 21 points and only three teams scored more than 10.

"They love to blitz a lot," Pridgen said. "They love to stack the box with eight, nine guys. We are going to try to be balanced and hopefully catch them off guard."

For the Wolves and the Titans, a win tonight would be more about taking that next step as a program that aims to reach the Georgia Dome for the state championship game. But vanquishing a team they failed to beat the first time would show the Wolves an objective sign of improvement.

"I do not think we were at our best (in the first game)," Pridgen said. "I do not think we were as good as we are now."

Proving that comes tonight, but started this week, first by containing the obvious emotion. A task, Pridgen admits, difficult for any teenager to complete.

"It is very hard," he said. "I suspect it is hard to do that with 20-, 21-year-old kids. Look at Georgia with the Black Out or LSU with Saban coming back. It is difficult, but this team has shown a tremendous amount of maturity this year. I expect our kid to actually do exactly what I ask them do to. Focus and pace themselves.

We are going to peak (tonight) and we are going to be absolutely ready."


Who: Holy Innocents' Golden Bears (5-A) at Wesleyan Wolves (8-A)

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Wesleyan School (From I-85, go west on Beaver Ruin Road to Buford Highway and turn right. At the next light, turn left on Langford Drive. Cross Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and turn left on Spalding Drive. School is on the right)

Coaches: Ryan Livesey, Holy Innocents'; Franklin Pridgen, Wesleyan

Records: Holy Innocents' 8-3; Wesleyan 9-2

Last week: Holy Innocents' beat Bowdon 13-0; Wesleyan beat Warren County 42-19

Winner plays: Miller County-Savannah Christian winner

Wesleyan Leaders:

· Rushing: Kyle Karempelis, 1,233 yards

· Passing: Conor Welton, 1,005 yards

· Receiving: Karempelis, 320 yards

· Tackles: Bobby Fulton, 61

· Interceptions: Devin Stanton, 3