Head coach Alan Beckett and Winterboro had been through this before, but this time they didn’t blink.
The Bulldogs saw a 20-0 lead evaporate in last week’s high school football jamboree against Verbena, which rallied to tie the game. The situation was eerily similar to a regular-season game between the teams in 2013, when the Red Devils wiped out a 19-0 lead en route to a 20-19 victory.
This time, however, Beckett’s Bulldogs answered the Verbena rally. Jaylen Ashley raced 46 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, and Winterboro held on to win 26-20.
Sure, it was just a jamboree, but Beckett said it was significant for his squad, which closed 0-10 last year during his first season at the helm.
“It was huge because we had not stared adversity in the eye,” Beckett said. “We had folded to adversity in the past and we didn’t (this time.) We kept playing.
“At Collinsville, my second year … we played North Sand Mountain (in a jamboree) and we beat North Sand Mountain. After struggling against good opponents, we beat a good opponent. I draw a parallel. It gave us some confidence.”
That Collinsville team went on to finish 6-5 and break a seven-year playoff drought.
Beckett isn’t promising similar results for his current Winterboro squad, but he’s hoping these Bulldogs will do what those Panthers did in 2008.
“That team maximized who they were,” he said. “We want to get as much out of our talent as we can.”
Next up for the Bulldogs is the season opener Friday night at 7 against visiting Coosa Christian.
The game will mark the official debut of first-year Coosa head coach Jason Touart, a former two-sport standout at Ashville who worked in business before taking over the Conquerors.
The Conquerors, coming off a 58-17 jamboree loss to Gaston, went 3-7 a year ago, but the three wins came in the last four weeks of the season.
“It’s always a challenge when there’s a new coach and you really don’t know for sure what they’re going to do,” Beckett said. “They have a really good, athletic quarterback. I saw them play in the spring. He extends plays. He’s a runner. They have a really good receiver, No. 10. They have a running back that’s coming back, No. 1.”
Senior Johnny Grizzard (6-foot-1, 150 pounds) starts at quarterback for Coosa. Senior Randy Washington (5-10, 160) is the running back who caught Beckett’s attention, and sophomore Jace Mills (5-9, 140) is a top threat at receiver.
Beckett said facing a mobile quarterback is a challenge.
“We have worked on our defensive linemen, just retracing their rush lanes … and really worked on opening field tackling and really worked on spacing,” he said. “It’s just like on kickoff coverage. You can’t get bunched on top of each other. You can’t leave them holes.”
The status of running back B.J. Twymon, who has an ankle injury, remains day-to-day, Beckett said. Twymon carried seven times for 105 yards in the jamboree.
Beckett said Twymon wasn’t the only standout last week.
“Marcus Means was all over the field,” he said. “Michael Garrett was dominating at offensive tackle. Colton Cleveland came from nowhere to catch people’s attention at defensive end. Brady Wideman played fantastic at safety. Our two freshmen outside linebackers (Nyjavion Brown, Kaleb Hale) played so good. Both brought lots of energy. Jaylen Ashley played well at cornerback and had two nice runs for touchdowns.”
The coach said his team needs to step up in several areas if it plans to be successful Friday.
“I feel like we need to continue offensively, continue to improve there,” he said. “Our line needs to continue to improve on rules and technique. We need to have more than one guy step up to make offensive plays. Defensively, we want our line to be part of picture. From our end of things, we’ve got to overcome fatigue. With small school football, conditioning (is important).”
Contact Lew Gilliland at firstname.lastname@example.org.