Pats, ’Dogs anticipate physical battle
Linden head coach Andro Williams is 38-5 in his tenure at the head of the Patriots’ program. Two of those losses have come against his alma mater, Sweet Water. One came in the 2007 regular season, the other in the 2008 semifinals. Friday night, he will either take his third loss at the hands of the Bulldogs or help lead Linden past the perennial purple and gold power for the first time in recent memory.
The region clash comes in week four, a time when the Patriots are ranked No. 1 in the ASWA Class 1A poll and the Bulldogs are holding in at No. 3. But amid all the buzz surrounding Friday night’s tussle is the reality that the game will have a profound impact on playoff placement.
For that reason, if for no other, the contest between two teams regarded for their respective affinities for running the ball and playing strong defense is expected to be very physical in nature.
“We prepare the same way we do every week,” SWHS head coach Stacy Luker said. “We feel like we practice physical every week so we don’t get surprised on Friday night.”
“We won’t get challenged any more than that this year in the regular season. We’ve talked about the physicality. You can’t simulate what we’ll see on Friday,” Williams said. “We’ve just got to make sure we bring the physicality as well.”
Linden has proven dominant in the early going this season, outscoring its three opponents by a total of 197-0 behind the strength of its defense and its proficiency at running the ball.
“Establish the line of scrimmage,” Luker said plainly of what his Bulldogs must be able to do in order to be successful against Linden. “They have owned the line of scrimmage since their spring game.”
Williams anticipates a struggle in the trenches on both sides of the ball. He considers the Sweet Water linemen among the best in the state.
“Those guys come off that ball. They are physical,” Williams said. “What they do offensively, it helps to have those kind of guys.”
Behind that Sweet Water offensive line is a bevy of backs who have proven capable of making plays.
“We’re going to give it to three or four guys,” Luker said. “We’re just short one (running back) right now without Chris (Landrum).”
Luker said losing Landrum to an ankle injury in the first game of the season has served to expedite the growth process of his younger runners. It is that group of backs Williams is focused on this week.
“They’ve got four or five guys. We’re not going to prepare to go against them individually,” Williams said. “We’re not going to worry about their personnel. We just have to cover all angles and gang tackle as best we can. They can all break one and go the distance. And you have to account for the quarterback (Brett Davis) too. He can beat you with his legs.”
On the other side, Sweet Water will be focused on limiting the Linden backs. Chief among that group is Kendarius Fritts, the reigning Class 1A Back of the Year. Fritts torched his former team last week, rushing for 265 yards and seven touchdowns on 11 carries against A.L. Johnson.
“They run hard, especiall Fritts,” Luker said. “They’ve got great skill across the board. That’s one of the things that makes them so dangerous. You can play great for 40 plays but not for five and they could score five times. This is probably the best Linden team we’ve seen, at least it looks that way on film.”
“Our kids know the situation that is in front of us,” Williams said. “It comes down to blocking and tackling.”