Photo by Jason Mussell / Dutchtown cornerback Brandon Durden (31) and the Bulldogs defense have been burned by big plays this season. But they hope a solid second half against Eagle’s Landing last week is a step in the right direction.
HAMPTON — Against all coaching creeds — at least those offered publicly — Dutchtown football coach Jason Galt looked ahead. Galt saw the Bulldogs’ game this Friday at Stockbridge on the schedule before the season began and immediately deciphered the significance.
“This is the sub-region championship,” Galt said. “This is it in my mind. That’s what I thought before the season began. That’s what has been motivating us this week.”
Galt’s scenario still looks likely, but it’s far from a guarantee after recent weeks of mild upheaval in region play.
Dutchtown’s stunning 40-37 loss at Locust Grove on Oct. 5 gave the Wildcats a brief spot as Stockbridge’s biggest challenger. But Locust Grove followed that signature win with a disappointing 23-14 loss at Woodland last Friday, leaving the Wolfpack (2-4, 1-0 Region 4A-AAAA ) and Stockbridge (5-1, 1-0) tied for first place.
Woodland still has Dutchtown (Nov. 2) and Stockbridge (Oct. 26) to play. Locust Grove (5-2, 1-1) plays Stockbridge on Nov. 2.
So despite the disappointing loss to Locust Grove, Galt and the Bulldogs don’t feel their post-season expectations have changed.
“We’re right where I expected us to be,” Galt said. “If we can beat Stockbridge, I like our chances against Woodland.”
Galt certainly didn’t like Dutchtown’s performance against Locust Grove. The Bulldogs squandered a 31-0 lead, unable to contain the explosive Wildcats duo of quarterback Keenan Wise and wide receiver Cortez McDowell.
Galt said Dutchtown suffered from poor tackling and didn’t display the urgency and physicality he expects from that unit.
“Guys are not coming up and being physical,” Galt said. “And if that’s your goal as a coach, it’s disheartening to see.”
“We could’ve tackled better,” Dutchtown junior cornerback Brandon Robertson said.
It was a performance Dutchtown couldn’t have imagined but one it tried to harness and learn from. Players said it was a lesson in managing the ups and downs for four quarters of a close game, something Dutchtown hadn’t experienced this season before.
“We needed that game,” Bulldogs junior cornerback Brandon Durden said. “It was like a playoff atmosphere. We’ve just got to learn from it and get better.”
Dutchtown put the lessons to use right away in the Bulldogs’ 52-22 victory against Eagle’s Landing last Friday. Amid a cascade of broken school records on offense, the defense showed some growth. Eagle’s Landing scored all of its points in the first half. Dutchtown didn’t let the Golden Eagles’ high-powered offense score again.
“We found a way to use the emotion from the [Locust Grove] loss,” Galt said, “and shut them down in the second half.”
But the Bulldogs’ task is much different Friday against Stockbridge. Whereas Dutchtown has faced a bevy of spread offenses this season, the Tigers have developed an identity much like the one the Bulldogs used on their way to the quarterfinals in 2010 — a steady offense that makes enough plays and dominant defense that’s allowing just 11.5 points per game.
“They’re what I imagine our team being like,” Galt said.
Galt is encouraged by that. If football is a game of match-ups, which Galt believes it is, he feels Dutchtown is well-suited against run-heavy teams like Stockbridge. The last time Dutchtown played a run-first team, the Bulldogs dealt previously-ranked Riverdale a 38-0 loss.
The Tigers average 163 rushing yards and just 79 passing yards. Galt hopes that philosophy plays right into the Bulldogs’ strength on defense in the defensive line and linebacker corps.
“They’re a pretty good team,” Durden said. “We’ve been focused at practice this week. We’re just going to play good sound football.”