Photo by Brian Paglia / Locust Grove football coach Clint Satterfield has the Wildcats where few thought they’d be — 5-1 and a legitimate chance of making the playoffs.
Locust Grove football coach Clint Satterfield knew his team was the underdog. Everybody was saying it, he told his team.
They had been saying it ever since the school opened in 2009.
It became fact after consecutive 2-8 seasons.
It was still fact even as Locust Grove won three games this season. Then four.
But now what will they say after the Wildcats’ dramatic 40-37 comeback victory over Dutchtown last Friday? What will they say as Locust Grove stands at 5-1 overall, 1-0 in Region 4-AAAA and holds a crucial tie-breaker over Dutchtown should both lose — or win — against Stockbridge?
Forget what they say, Locust Grove.
You said it all Friday night. That you were no longer the “new school.” The punching bag. The bottom dweller of the region.
With that Dutchtown win, you proclaimed your presence as a playoff contender.
So maybe it took awhile to make the statement.
For a quarter and a half, Dutchtown looked exactly like the sure playoff contender it had after four straight wins. The Bulldogs did everything right. They scored on their first possession, promptly recovered an onside kick and then scored again.
Dutchtown’s methodical run game was unstoppable. Locust Grove didn’t have a chance against Malik Barkley, Donovahn Jones and Will Smith. That’s how the Bulldogs built a 31-0 lead in the second quarter.
This sports photographer put the lens cap on his camera, slung it over his shoulder and headed back to the office.
Then Locust Grove found its voice again. The same one it had on that game-winning drive to beat county rival Ola on Sept. 7 in a 35-28 win. The same one that helped the Wildcats overcome fumbles and poor execution to escape with a 19-12 win at North Clayton on Sept. 28.
It started slow but spoke volumes.
Like many comebacks, this one needed a stroke of good fortune.
With the tip of a pass, right into the hands of Locust Grove receiver Cortez McDowell, the Wildcats were off.
They scored 14 points right before halftime, like a well-timed teaser before intermission. They scored the first 18 points in the second half to take a 32-31 lead.
By now the refrain has been repeated enough to have been memorized by local high school football fans. The comeback featured dazzling performances from both Locust Grove quarterback Keenan Wise, who finished with five total touchdowns, and McDowell, who caught all three of Wise’s passing scores.
But don’t forget Justin Drake, who played with a torn labrum and sparked the Wildcats with a big catch coming out of halftime. Or Locust Grove’s defense, which forced the dynamic Jones to fumble that set up a touchdown and somehow found a way to hold Dutchtown when it mattered.
Indeed, don’t forget about Locust Grove. Like it or not, Wildcats, it says here you won’t be underdogs the next two weeks in games against Woodland (1-4) and Eagle’s Landing (0-6).
What will they say when the Wildcats are 7-1?
Don’t worry. If you’re missing that underdog feeling, it will return Nov. 2 against No. 8-ranked Stockbridge (5-1).
Then you can have your say again.
Brian Paglia covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter? Follow him @BrianPaglia.