David Wagner is not one to back down from a challenge.
While the Winder-Barrow High School football coach knows his team faces a big challenge in Clarke Central this week, the Bulldogg mentor is also looking forward to it.
“I don’t think anyone who coaches or plays this game gets great satisfaction out of playing someone who is not near your capability,” Wagner said. “You want to play against and beat good football teams. There are no gimmes in this region.”
WBHS (0-3) enters Friday’s game against Clarke Central coming off its bye week. Wagner said Sunday he believes the team was able to get plenty accomplished during the open week.
“We scaled back some on our contact,” the coach said. “We had a few players dinged up after the Madison County game. It was also good to have an extra week to prepare for Clarke Central.”
Wagner gave his players last Friday off from practice to allow them a break — both physically and mentally.
“Hopefully, we can continue to have quality practices this week,” the coach said. “I believe we will. I can count on one hand the number of practices we’ve had that were below par.”
The Gladiators are 3-0 and currently ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA. Clarke Central advanced to the state championship game last fall. The team excels on both sides of the football.
“Clarke Central plays a 4-3 defensive front with ‘Cover 4’ in the secondary,” said Bulldogg offensive coordinator Kenneth Sanders. “ They walk the ‘Sam’ linebacker down and play a
5-man front with zone coverage in the secondary as well. They are sound technique-wise, physical and fast on defense.”
The overall athleticism of the Gladiators concerns Wagner.
“You can do everything right and still not make a play against them,” Wagner said. “They are very talented in all areas.”
Offensively, Clarke Central uses multiple formations.
“They don’t have a ton of plays,” Wagner said. “They just run the ones they have out of different looks and formations. They may run the same play 10 times but never in the same formation.”
This week will be another in a season of challenges for WBHS. Facing the No. 2 team in the state is never easy when you are trying to establish your program.
“One thing you can say about this region is you can never complain about never facing a quality opponent,” Wagner said. “Our region allows you to know where you stand in the state.”
While he knows his team is an underdog on paper, Wagner isn’t backing down an inch from the challenge.
“It’s the reason why at the end of the day you play the game,” Wagner said. “If the outcome was decided by analysis or by rankings, there would be no need to play. The human element is always going to be involved in sports. We’ve seen in recent years and in college football this season how teams who aren’t supposed to have a chance on paper, come through and win.”
WBHS senior Hogan Anderson is set for the challenge.
“We know they have Division I athletes all over the field, who are big, strong, and fast, but it's simply going to be a test of being physical for us,” Anderson said.