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Former coordinator returns to Apalachee as opposition

Tonight is homecoming for Winder-Barrow head football coach David Wagner.

Not at his school, but rather at crosstown rival Apalachee, where he was defensive coordinator under coach Shane Davis before getting his first head coaching job with the Bulldoggs this season. It will be Wagner’s first game there since coaching four seasons at Apalachee with Davis and Wildcats offensive coordinator Joel Miller, after two seasons with both at Elbert County.

WINDER-BARROW AT APALACHEE

Winder-Barrow Bulldoggs (8-AAAA)

Coach: David Wagner

Record: 0-8, 0-8 region

Last week: Lost to Salem 16-6

Apalachee Wildcats (8-AAAA)

Coach: Shane Davis

Record: 5-3, 5-3 region

Last week: Lost to Cedar Shoals 28-21

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Apalachee won 56-0 last year

Directions to Apalachee High School: From SR316 east, turn right on Patrick Mill Road, left on Tom Miller Road, then left on Haymon Morris Road. Stadium is on the right.

“This game has an added twist because (Davis) is one of my close friends,” Wagner said. “Sometimes you have to play against close friends. It’s a double-edged sword.”

Apalachee and Winder-Barrow are at different ends of fortune, with the Wildcats (5-3) on the brink of a fifth consecutive playoff appearance and the Bulldoggs (0-8) still seeking their first win.

“Right now, we just want to just show up and play 48 minutes of mistake-free football,” Wagner said. “Where I am (at Winder-Barrow) kind of reminds me of where Shane was in 2005, (when Davis took over Apalachee’s 2-8 program and finished 1-9).

“If I can look back in five years and have accomplished everything Shane has in his five seasons, I’d be content.”

Wagner keeps in regular touch with Davis and Miller, and in fact, attended Tennessee’s football game at Georgia with Miller a few weeks ago. But from opposite sidelines tonight, they’ll be spirited adversaries. Davis will try to keep Wagner winless, and Wagner will attempt to slow Apalachee momentum with a third consecutive loss before its Game 10 showdown for a playoff berth with Loganville.

“We have some idea what (one another) might do,” Davis said. “I know what he likes to do against a wing-T offense and I’ll know his base offense and base defense, but there are always tweaks teams make on Friday night.

“We’re going to have to do a good job offensively to sustain drives.”

Davis surely is aware that, after four turnovers in last week’s 16-6 loss to Salem, the Bulldoggs played a comparatively mistake-free second half and theoretically shut out the Seminoles 6-0 in the second half on Christian Hodge’s 23-yard scoring pass to B.J. Worley.

In contrast, Wagner said his Bulldoggs must focus on stopping Apalachee quarterback Clint Ashe and running backs Alex Camp, Zay Henry and Stanley Williams, whom he warned can score from anywhere. Henry and Williams both had 4-yard touchdown runs in Apalachee’s 28-21 loss last week to Cedar Shoals.

The “Battle of Barrow” is 3-3 to date, but the Wildcats have won three of the last four matchups, including 56-0 last season and 51-6 in 2008.