Westover defensive lineman Brenten Wimberly (48) and the Patriots will try to slow down Stockbridge's triple option attack tonight in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY – The thoughts are still fresh.
Last season, Westover High School football coach Octavia Jones said his Patriots may have overlooked South Effingham in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs and had their season end.
Jones and his coaching staff have thought about what they could have done differently against the Mustangs.
As the Patriots meet Stockbridge in the second round of the postseason tonight at Hugh Mills Stadium, Westover is grateful to be back in the same position it was in this time last year. Only this time, the Patriots vow things will be different.
“The second round was our nemesis last year,” Jones said. “I thought we were a little too loose and our guys underestimated South Effingham because they were a No. 4 seed. We are fully focused this season on not overlooking anyone.”
Westover (9-2) has been focused during its eight-game winning streak. A victory would send the Patriots into the quarterfinals against either Carrollton or Monroe Area next week, which would be the deepest postseason penetration for the Patriots in school history.
However, Jones isn’t looking that far ahead. His team has its hands full with Stockbridge, which will bring a complex triple-option offensive attack.
“It starts with fullback (Malik Bryan) … if you stop him, then you have to contend with their two wingbacks,” Jones said. “If you stop them, then you have to deal with their quarterback. If you stop him, then you have to contend with their passing game, which is pretty good, too.”
Like last week when the Patriots had to contend with Liberty County five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan, they will have to deal with another high profile recruit. Stockbridge defensive back Kendarius Webster has verbally committed to Ole Miss.
Wingback Maetron Thomas has verbally committed to UNC-Charlotte. Last week, he accounted for more than 200 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ 41-20 first-round win over Westside-Macon.
But Stockbridge knows its offense will have to contend with a stout Westover defense that has been the team’s backbone this season, allowing just an average of 10.9 points per game.
The defensive front, led by tackle Trenton Thompson, has already been noticed by Stockbridge quarterback Javon Brandon.
“No. 78 (Thompson) definitely stands out immediately on film,” Brandon told the Henry Herald earlier this week. “They’ve got a good tackle.”
Jones has lauded the play of Thompson, Malik Cunningham, Brenten Wimberley and Reed Thornhill on the defensive front.
“Those guys have done a great job all year,” Jones said. “They’ve made things a lot easier for our linebackers and defensive backs.”
But one thing that has been different this year as opposed to last season has been the players’ focus. Stockbridge, the No. 2 seed from Region 4, has won six straight since suffering its only loss. The Tigers were defeated by Griffin 35-14 on Sept. 27.
Westover senior kicker Tanner Stumpe knows Stockbridge will be tough.
“Our coaches have talked about not stopping until the fourth quarter (is over),” Stumpe said. “We’ve gotten this far, we might as well keep going. We’ve just got to stay focused.”
Unlike last season.