Disappointment drives Wolves into playoffs against Warren County

Photo by Donnie Ikpa

Photo by Donnie Ikpa

Before last week’s game against Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, Wesleyan coach Franklin Pridgen said he was excited because his team got a playoff-game atmosphere without the playoff-game stakes.

And it’s a good thing.

Warren Co. at Wesleyan

Who: Warren County Screaming Devils (7-A) at Wesleyan Wolves (5-A)

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Wesleyan High School (From I-85, take I-285 west to Peachtree Industrial Blvd./Ga. 141 north exit. Veer to the left on Peachtree Parkway/Ga. 141 and turn right on Spalding Drive. School is on the left)

Coaches: Marleau Blount, Warren County; Franklin Pridgen, Wesleyan

Records: Warren County 7-3; Wesleyan 9-1

Last week: Warren County beat Aquinas 33-27; Wesleyan lost to Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy 35-28

Winner plays: Athens Academy-Mt. Paran winner

Wesleyan leaders:

Rushing: Kyle Karempelis, 1,236 yards

Passing: Andrew Frerking, 1,723 yards

Receiving: Malachi Jones, 462 yards

Tackles: Merritt Hall, 88; Drew Widner, 86

Interceptions: Four with two each

The Wolves lost their first game of the season, 35-28, to ELCA and enter the Class A playoffs as a No. 2 seed. But they are still at home, facing a 7-3 Warren County team.

“We knew (we’d be at home),” Pridgen said. “We like our bracket. We feel like we can make some noise if we play well. Who knows, as a No. 2 seed we could find ourselves at home for several more weeks.”

Over the past three seasons, Wesleyan has had unparalleled success, losing just four times since 2008. Their only consecutive losses came in 2008, the same year they won the state championship. But they can’t lose consecutive games again if they want the 2008 results. But perhaps a playoff win over Warren County could set the Wolves on the right path.

“Warren County is no stranger to Wesleyan,” Pridgen said of the Wolves’ 2008 first-round opponent. “They are very athletic with speed in the backfield and size up front.”

Warren County is a run-first team led by Jabari Wilson and Coby Reynolds. Their quarterback, Dondracus Dozier, is more of a threat to pass than run.

“They don’t have a variety of things that they do in the passing game, but their quarterback throws the ball well,” Pridgen said. “My biggest concern would be him breaking contain on a pass play and running.”

The Screaming Devils prefer to waste clock but have scored more than 30 points five times this season. The teams both beat their one common opponent, Twiggs County, by 33.

But what Wesleyan did in its wins is not what Pridgen is focused on, it’s what his team does following a loss. It’s a loss the Wolves want to build off.

“We learned a great deal about ourselves and took a big step forward,” Pridgen said of last week’s loss. “Our kids left here Friday night feeling good about themselves.

“It reminded them that it’s not fun to lose on Friday night. It’s a huge blessing for us. It was a meaningful moment.”

And this week, the Wolves will get back a few players on defense who missed last week’s game, though Pridgen was admittedly coy on who was returning. That’s playoff football. It’s somewhere Wesleyan hopes to be for a few more weeks, and maybe again at home.

“I feel like their appetite for success has been refreshed,” Pridgen said. “We got the monkey off our backs of winning every game and of streaks and can relax and go play football.”