Westwood's J.T. Edore hits Stratford quarterback John Mitchell as he releases the ball during Thursday night's game. Mitchell completed the pass for a 36-yard gain to receiver Jonathan Hefner, setting up one of three Stratford TDs in the first half. (Staff photo: John Millikan)
CAMILLA -- J.T. Edore spent most of 2012 running over, through and around anybody who got in his way on the football field.
On Thursday, neither Edore nor the Westwood Wildcats could go anywhere.
Playing against GISA Class AAA Stratford Academy, the Class AA Wildcats were outmatched in their second game of the season and lost, 28-7, to fall to 0-1-1. Westwood managed just 24 total yards in the first half and 144 in the entire game, while Edore, who rushed for 1,660 yards last season and is one of Southwest Georgia’s most explosive runners, was held to 47 yards on 12 carries.
For the first time since 2009 the Wildcats are now winless in their first two games, a start that has been frustrating for head coach Ross Worsham and everybody at Westwood, where wins have become expected and 200-yard rushing games have become commonplace.
“We are all disappointed, and that’s good. Nobody likes to lose here. We don’t like the way that feels, and that’s good,” Worsham said. “Nobody is in a good mood, and that’s good. Nobody is hooping and hollering and excited. They are disappointed, and when you have the program that we feel like we have, that’s the way you feel when you’re not successful.”
It was a frustrating night for the Wildcats, who battled Piedmont to a 20-20 tie last week but quickly fell behind on Thursday to a Stratford Academy team that lost in the Class AAA state semifinals last season and returned much of its starting lineup.
Westwood finally crossed the goal line with 28 seconds left in the game when quarterback Ralph Collins scampered for a 17-yard TD run, which was set up by first-down rushes from Edore, Chason Worsham and Reid Ford.
The late TD kept Westwood from getting shutout by Stratford for the second year in a row, but it didn’t eliminate the frustration that came with the Wildcats’ worst loss to a team other than Valwood since 2009.
“This feels like it’s on our shoulders,” Edore said, referring to himself and the eight other seniors on Westwood’s roster. “It doesn’t feel like we are pushing hard enough. We just need to step it up. We can’t go any more like this. It’s going to take everything we have.
“We aren’t playing like we should be. We are better than we are showing. Some people need to step up, including myself.”
Nothing was more frustrating than the lack of a running game for the Wildcats, whose program has been anchored by dominating rushers in recent years.
“It was very frustrating to know how good we really are but to see how we played,” Collins said. “Stratford did a very good job defending our run. They did their homework on us and knew what was coming when we lined up. It was frustrating to see J.T. and Chason struggle as much as they did.”
Collins finished the game with (minus)-6 yards rushing despite his long TD run in the closing seconds and was 7-for-14 throwing the ball for 49 yards. His top target was tight end Jamie Davis, who caught four passes for 30 yards. On defense, Ridge Collins and T.J. Robertson each recovered a fumble for Westwood.
Stratford, which held Westwood to (minus)-8 yards in the first quarter, scored on its first drive of the game when quarterback John Mitchell capped a seven-play, 55-yard drive with a 3-yard rushing TD. Mitchell was 3-for-3 for 98 yards and completed all of his passes --- including TD throws of 50 and 12 yards --- to receiver Jonathan Hefner. Stratford, which led 21-0 at halftime after Westwood never threatened to score in the first half, also got a 1-yard rushing TD from Cole Thomason.
Westwood, which lost to Stratford 17-0 in last year’s season opener, will look for its first win in its next game Sept. 6 at home against Dawson Street.