Winterboro High School’s football team will travel to Courtland for a Class 1A playoff game against R.A. Hubbard on Friday at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs advanced to the playoffs for the third consecutive season for the first time in school history, and head coach Alan Beckett said his players have found a motivation that hasn’t always lingered past the regular season.
“This is the first time that everyone was still focused on playing,” Beckett said. “It's nice to feel like we have a chance … Usually, our players have moved on to wanting to play basketball. This team wants to finish the season.
"It's the first team since I've been here that the assistant coaches were 100-percent all-in, showed up for everything, cared and gave the kids a chance to win. This what I was use to coming here. This is a credit to these assistant coaches and our administration of bringing them in.”
In Winterboro’s football history, the Bulldogs have crossed paths with the Chiefs just once -- a 41-19 victory in the second round of the 2005 1A playoffs at Courtland.
Beckett said the 2018 iteration of the Chiefs looks to be a solid team.
“Everybody that is in the playoffs is good,” Beckett said. “That's the playoffs. Hubbard's offense looks for explosive plays. Defensively, we have to bleed them out and force them into long drives.
“What stands out on film is how hard they play, how excited that Hubbard gets to play. They run a bevy of formations we will have to adjust to.
“Players that stand out are running back Demetris Bean, defensive lineman Jaheim Crittidon and defensive back Otis Robinson, who has multiple interceptions for touchdowns."
The Bulldogs spent the final two weeks of the regular season in preparation mode for this contest because the team had an open schedule. Winterboro last played Oct. 19 in an emotional 34-27 victory over rival Ragland that secured the third seed in Region 5 to set up the playoff matchup with the Chiefs.
“The double bye was a unique situation to say the least,” Beckett said. “It has a chance to benefit us. We took the first week and focused on us. (We) self-scouted and did best-on-best.
"The second week, we were able to do things like situational days, sideline organizational days, kick-only days, etc. We got a chance to get well and heal up. We viewed it like college teams use the off time for a bowl game.
“It's hard to get players up like we did against Ragland. That kind of energy week-in and week-out is tough. We hope the time can help us get back there again.”
One of the biggest boons for the Bulldogs this season has been the play of senior Shaun Vincent, who played linebacker prior to 2018, but Beckett called upon him to compete as the signal-caller on offense.
Vincent’s mobility has been a factor as he compiled 695 yards and eight touchdowns on 75 carries and went 32 of 93 for 363 yards and a touchdown through the air.
“(Vincent) came out of nowhere to be the quarterback,” Beckett said. “He'd never really wanted to try it until his senior season and he turned out to be a game-changer. We first thought of him as a game manager, but he's turned into much more. He had some incredible runs against Ragland and has all year.”
Winterboro started 2-2 as the team struggled to find itself, but the Bulldogs went 4-1 down the stretch.
“This team took a little while to formulate an identity,” Beckett said. “We were not sure what kind of team we would have. We lost our quarterback, three leading rushers and had a linemen sign (to play) college (football). That's lots of lost players for a 1A team.
“We started out in the ‘I’ formation and planned to be run-heavy but lost the back we planned to feature. We had to find another identity. We've been much more balanced this way.
"Early on, we weren't (sure) who could do what in a game, but our identity has really emerged the second half of the season.”