Region showdown

Jay James and the Bulldogs will look to improve to 2-2 in Class 1A, Region 5 play Friday against Victory Christian.

Winterboro High School’s football team will host Class 1A, Region 5 foe Victory Christian on Friday night.

The Bulldogs bested the Lions 30-14 in 2018 to add another win in a lopsided series. 

Winterboro (4-2, 1-2) holds victories in all nine meetings, and save for a 16-14 thriller in 2017, none of the other games have been nearly as close.

Here are four things to watch going into this Week 6 clash:

Not taking Lions lightly

Winterboro head coach Alan Beckett said his team isn’t overlooking Victory Christian despite how the game ended up a season ago.

“We played one of our best games of the year,” he said. “Offensively, we were clicking, but that (was) last year and has no bearing on this year. The worst thing you can (have) happen is you start to say, ‘We got this.’ That’s a disease of its own.”

Though the Lions (3-2, 1-1) play with plenty of young talent, Beckett said he’s aware of what his opponent can do when it’s clicking.

“Quarterback Dalton Lewellyn, running back Ty Chasteen, Pate Cheatwood (tight end/safety) and Cameron Cheatwood (tight end/linebacker) are all very talented skill players,” he said. “They have scored points all year, and last week they scored 67. Our defense has its work cut out.”

Continuing to grow

Lions head coach Bruce Breland’s squad picked up some momentum in its 67-38 win over Coosa Christian a week ago. He said it was critical for the Lions to get into a rhythm and showcase what they can do.

The win came on the heels of a 20-18 victory over Ragland on Sept. 20.

“Point-wise, we certainly weren’t trying to score 67 points, but it makes you feel good that you’re capable of doing that,” he said. “As far as the two wins together, it’s good for the ballplayers going into the next three-game stretch that we have because that stretch is brutal.”

Breland said the success his standout players had against Coosa Christian was due to the success of their teammates.

“I think Cameron Cheatwood had a great game,” Breland said. “He did a great job on defense and (being) where he was supposed to be when he was supposed to be there. He did a great job of tackling and hitting aggressively. Offensively, he was a standout performer for us.

“Lewellyn had a super night. He’s learning every time he goes out and he seemed to be really focused and settled in the other night … I thought the whole offensive line played well. I thought they probably played the best game that I’ve seen an offensive line play since I’ve been here at Victory.”

Challenges ahead for both teams

Breland said two areas where Winterboro may carry an advantage into the contest are pure team speed and size.

“We can’t duplicate (their speed) at practice, so it’s very hard to get to that game speed that quickly,” he said. “You want to get there from the kickoff on, but it’s going to take a few minutes for us to catch up … They have tremendous size, and we’re not a very big team, so we’ve got to be ready to play at that level and have our intensity up to that level.”

Beckett’s squad comes into the contest on a two-game winning streak as well. The Bulldogs beat Vincent 40-26 in Week 5.

“I feel like we have some really good kids,” he said. “We have some kids that have committed to making the program better, and I think it is better than it was. 

“On a couple (of players, we’re trying to) make sure they understand and emphasize execution (of plays) and why you run them right. We’re also trying to get a few kids to realize it’s not all about them. A really good team has more than one person, (so) it’s important to be a team player.” 

Playoff implications not on coaches’ minds

Neither Breland nor Beckett have their minds on the playoff ramifications and the potential fallout from the contest.

“We’re going to approach Winterboro just like we did Coosa and just like we will Spring Garden (Oct. 11),” Breland said. “We know it’s an important game. Our guys know that and our coaches know that, but we also know that it’s not the end of the world if we do come up short Friday night. 

“We still have a chance and opportunity to play and get ourselves in the playoffs, but we do know this is a critical game for the playoff picture.”

Beckett said there hasn’t been any looking ahead or assuming when it comes to making the postseason.

“At my place, playoffs haven’t been mentioned, and the kids haven’t mentioned it, which is a good thing,” he said. “(They’re) focused on the next game. (Our schedule) was very front-end loaded, and it was tough opponents in the very beginning week after week after week. 

“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know how many kids could tell you this was a region game. We’ve talked about it no differently than we did Vincent.”