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Wesleyan, Wilcox offenses clash

Wesleyan head coach Franklin Pridgen raved about the effectiveness of Wilcox County's passing game.

But the No. 1 Wolves have a pretty potent offense as well.

Does that mean a shootout is in the cards when the teams meet at Wesleyan tonight for a Class A quarterfinal showdown?

"As a defensive coach, in my heart, I hope it's not a shootout," Pridgen said with a laugh. "And I'm not sure my nerves can handle another one like last week."

After winning big all season, the Wolves proved they could gut out a close game last week. The defending state champs were pushed to the brink by a speedy Bowdon team. Bowdon tied it on the last play of regulation, but Wesleyan triumphed 34-28 in overtime to remain unbeaten and keep the drive for a second straight title alive.

"(Overtime) was a surprise to a lot of our fans and maybe to (the media) a little bit, but Bowdon was an excellent football team and we had a tremendous amount of respect for them going in," Pridgen said. "What surprised me more was that we got out to a 21-point lead in the first half."

The Wolves, which had outscored their opponents 454-38 prior to the Bowdon battle, made a few key errors in the second half. Bowdon got back into the game by capitalizing on those.

"If one of those two or three mistakes on our part didn't happen, I don't know if that game would have gone to overtime," Pridgen said. "But that was one of the fastest teams we've seen in years. It was an honor to be on the field with them and a thrill to win."

The victory set up a meeting with Wilcox County, a team from South Georgia that has become a threat in recent years. The Patriots were unbeaten last year before falling to Lincoln County in the quarterfinals and made the state finals two years ago.

"So they're quite accustomed to being in this position," Pridgen said.

Wilcox County features an impressive quarterback and exceptional receivers.

"I've not seen a passing attack as potent as theirs in many years," Pridgen said.

But Wesleyan is no slouch in the scoring department either. Running back Kyle Karempelis and quarterback Conor Welton both surpassed the school's career yardage marks this season and make for a tough one-two punch.

The Wolves have also shown the ability to play shut-down defense. They have recorded five shutouts this season and while the competition is unquestionably better in the playoffs, the Wolves are looking forward to the challenge.

"We certainly believe in our defense and I know we have a great plan," Pridgen said.