Woodland athlete Mark Bussey and the Wolfpack offense has been playing up to Coach Scott Schmitt’s standards, averaging 68 plays and 15 first downs a game.
STOCKBRIDGE — Five games into its season, Woodland has heard about Keenan Wise and Cortez McDowell. The Locust Grove duo has propelled the Wildcats to a surprising 5-1 start and damaged defenses’ confidences.
But five games into its season, Woodland has already seen some of the best offensive weapons in the Southern Crescent and some of the top teams the area has to offer.
Which means the Wolfpack feel they’re prepared unlike any other team as they face McDowell, Wise and the Wildcats tonight in Woodland’s Region 4-AAAA opener at 7:30 p.m.
“We’ve played some tough opponents,” Woodland coach Scott Schmitt said, “and we’ve been in every game.”
Indeed, the Wolfpack (1-4) have already faced the likes of Union Grove, Woodward Academy, Griffin and Jonesboro. Those teams are a combined 18-5 so far this season. Two are ranked. None has more than two losses.
Each team had their own set of dynamic offensive players.
Union Grove had running back Derrick Craine who rushed for 231 yards and three touchdowns against Woodland. Yet, the Wolfpack lost by just a touchdown and two-point conversion, 22-14.
Griffin had quarterback Jacquez Parks, who threw for two touchdowns, and running back Davontae Freeman, who rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries. Yet, Woodland led the then-No. 3-ranked Bears in the second quarter.
Jonesboro had an array of playmakers — quarterback Mario Atkinson and wide receivers Taurean Ferguson, Dareon London and Cameron Sutton — and yet the Wolfpack trailed by just a touchdown until the Cardinals pulled away in the second half for a 34-20 win.
“We’ve been beating every team at some point in the game,” Schmitt said. “We’ve just got to finish all four quarters.”
The challenging non-region schedule also exposed Woodland’s young defense. The Wolfpack returned only five starters and have utilized more offensive players to establish depth.
But the learning curve has been steep. Schmitt said tackling has been inconsistent and opponents have been able to sustain long drives.
“We’re not getting opponents off the field quick enough,” Schmitt said.
But Schmitt’s been pleased with the offense’s performance, which might be expected from a unit that returned nine starters. Junior quarterback Taylor Poff impressed with his performance against Griffin — 18 of 24 passing for 214 yards and two touchdowns — and has four dangerous wide receivers to throw to. Running back Malcolm Miller has been reliable, especially against Jonesboro, when he accounted for all three of Woodland’s touchdowns.
The unit’s exceeding every statistical measurement Schmitt uses to gauge their success, averaging 68 plays, 15 first downs and almost three touchdowns a game.
“We’re a blue collar team,” Schmitt said. “We’re making plays. Everyone on offense has done a good job.”
It wasn’t enough during Woodland’s first half of the season, but Schmitt said his team understands the importance of tonight’s region opener.
“I believe in my guys,” Schmitt said. “They’re good kids who work hard.”