Chestatee at West Hall
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Spartan Field, Oakwood
Coaches: Chestatee, Bill Forman; West Hall, Tony Lotti
Records: Chestatee (0-1); West Hall (1-0)
Key players: Chestatee, RB/LB Kris Pierce (5-8, 210, Sr.), RB/LB Marvin Rosario (6-2, 215, Sr.), RB/DB A.J. Sijiye (6-2, 195 Sr.); West Hall, DB/RB Tyquan Statham (6-2, 200 Jr.), OL/LB Ty Statham (6-1, 205 Sr.), RB/DB Kwon Williams (6-0, 185 Jr.)
For all the good work that Kwon Williams did with the ball last Friday in West Hall’s season opening win against Johnson, Spartans offensive coordinator Luke Wiggs liked what the junior running back did without the ball just as much.
Williams, running behind five experienced offensive linemen, racked up 112 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-0 rout of the Knights at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium.
Wiggs is looking for more strong all-around play from Williams tonight at Spartan Field when West Hall (1-0) plays host to its “best opponent, defensively,” in the form of Hall County rival Chestatee.
“He had two really solid weeks of practice under him,” Wiggs said during a Tuesday practice. “He’s done a real good job of getting the job done without the ball, blocking, setting up tackles. I thought his leadership has really improved over the summer.”
The game should provide a much tighter matchup than what the Spartans and War Eagles (0-1) experienced in Week 1.
Chestatee beat West Hall last year in a 15-14 victory, which was decided by a two-point conversion.
The loss of senior offensive/defensive lineman Matthew Pruitt to a season-ending knee injury was one reason why the War Eagles struggled in a 29-0 loss to Flowery Branch last week.
Chestatee coach Bill Forman said he’ll be looking toward senior Cody Kenimer and others to fill the void left at nose guard by Pruitt, who has received offers from Air Force and Navy.
“It’s been by committee, really,” Forman said of his defensive line. “Because of our depth on the line, we just try to roll guys in and keep people as fresh as we can. That’s the thing about playing both ways, you don’t lose one player, you lose two.”
Forman’s defense must pull out all the stops to contain Williams, as well as fellow running backs Malcolm Prather and Tyquan Statham, who combined for 48 yards on 11 rushes last week. Ty Statham also poses a threat — the senior rushed in for a score from three yards out against Johnson.
“There’s no doubt [Williams] is an explosive athlete,” Forman said. “You try not to give him any space to run and keep him in the backfield as long as possible, because he can cut you up the middle real quick.”
Wiggs said West Hall’s offensive strategy is called the “we-fense,” a system that changes depending on how he can get his offensive playmakers in the best situations possible.
West Hall coach Tony Lotti said he intentionally held back from giving Tyquan Statham many touches last week, in order to keep him fresh for the season ahead.
“Yeah, he’s good to go,” Lotti said. “We’ve been banging on each other in practice for so long, I wanted to make sure we spread the touches out and hold off on some people. He’ll be ready to play more and we can rest others.”
While Wiggs praised his offensive linemen as the best he’s seen in his three years at West Hall, Lotti knows they’ll have their hands full taking on a 3-3 stack Chestatee defense that brings blitzes often and pressure on every snap.
The trick, Lotti said, will be finding speed advantages to outrun the War Eagles’ linebackers.
“They’re big, they’re physical and they bring a lot of hats to the ball,” Lotti said. “It’s a lot of movement. They’re going to be strong opponents and it’s a great way for us to get better before region play.”
Chestatee has beaten West Hall each of the last three years and holds a 6-4 edge in the all-time series, dating back to the teams’ first meeting in 2002.
The last time West Hall defeated Chestatee at home was in September 2004. Kwon Williams was just 6 years old at the time and a student at Flowery Branch Elementary.
A decade later, Williams and West Hall are once again a strong threat to knock off their rival at Spartan Field.
“I’ve watched a lot of film on them, a lot of film,” Williams said of Chestatee. “They’re a very well disciplined team, well coached. We’ve just got to come play.”