Wesleyan at full strength for region opener

Kyle Karempelis is back in the lineup and Wesleyan’s defense is sparkling again after a major overhaul.

Neither of those facts are happy news to the No. 2-ranked Wolves’ region rival Holy Innocents’.

Holy Innocents’ at Wesleyan

Holy Innocents’ Bears (5-A)

Coach: Ryan Livezey

Record: 2-1

Last week: Lost to GAC 49-10

Wesleyan Wolves (5-A)

Coach: Franklin Pridgen

Record: 3-0

Last week: Beat Twiggs County 33-0

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Wesleyan won 28-2 last season

Directions to 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.

Karempelis, who has rushed for more than 4,000 yards in his career, sprained his ankle late in Wesleyan’s narrow Week 2 win over Elbert County. The two-time all-state running back could have played last week in the Wolves’ rout of Twiggs County, but head coach Franklin Pridgen chose to rest him in preparation for the start of the 5-A schedule.

“Kyle’s fine,” Pridgen said. “He is frustrated by having to sit out and raring to go.”

Wesleyan was without one major weapon, but played what Pridgen said was its best game by far this season in a 33-0 shutout.

“We definitely addressed issues — which was exactly what we were hoping to do,” Pridgen said.

Pridgen was particularly pleased with the defensive effort.

“We shuffled the defensive lineup, put some familiar faces at unfamiliar places,” Pridgen said. “I’m so happy with the way the guys responded to that. There was no ego involved, no ‘I’ve been playing this position all my life.’

“It was absolutely ‘We’ve got to do things to fix our defense.’ Then we came out and got a shutout and that validated it.”

They’ll put that to the test again today against a Holy Innocents’ team that was walloped 49-10 by Greater Atlanta Christian last week. Pridgen cautions not to be fooled by that score though.

“It’s very easy to get deceived by it,” Pridgen said. “They’re certainly not that kind of team to get blown out like that. The kids obviously have a lot of pride and will bounce back and play hard and show it was a fluke.

“They’re much better than that score. I’m sure we’ll get their best effort — as always.”

Holy Innocents’ is the last team to beat Wesleyan (3-0) in the regular season, a stretch of 20 games that dates back to the third week of 2008. After that 7-6 loss to the Bears (2-1), Wesleyan won out and took home the Class A state title. The Wolves also beat Holy Innocents’ 28-2 last season.

“That’s all true, but we’re looking at it looking forward,” Pridgen said. “They are one of the best teams in our subregion. The winner of this has the inside track to the region play-in game. There’s a lot on the line this early in the season. I told the guys I want playoff focus and playoff intensity and playoff execution.”