As coach of one of two common opponents of Buford and Warner Robins this season, Clarke Central head coach David Perno has a unique perspective of tonight’s Class AAAAA state title clash.
Perno, whose Gladiators defeated Buford 31-28 in the regular season finale on Nov. 8 and lost to Warner Robins 49-14 in the state quarterfinals two weeks ago, breaks down the Wolves and the Demons and gives his thoughts as to what each team has to do to win.
“They’ve got a great running attack and a very good offensive line. That’s kind of their M.O. They kind of wear you down and shorten the game a little bit, and I’m pretty sure that will be their goal against Warner Robins. They’ve got a lot of good (running) backs. No. 25 (Victor Venn) is their third running back, but they haven’t missed a beat. They’ll stick to their guns and get that round game going.”
WARNER ROBINS’ DEFENSE
They’ve got probably as good as linebacking crew as we’ve played against. They’re really good athletes. Their front has got some good athletes, too, similar to Buford, but their linebackers are really talented. No. 15 (Malachi Weatherspoon), No. 34 (Ahmad Walker) and No. 16 (Demarcus Robinson) are all really good linebackers. They can tackle, they can cover. They’re very well rounded. They can do it all. They show blitz, they show cover, They’ve got big run stoppers. They’re a gifted crew. Their secondary is pretty good, too. “No. 8 (Xavier Hill) is really physical and can play (both) cornerback and safety. They’re as talented as a (defensive unit) as we’ve played in (Class) AAAAA in the last three or four years.
WARNER ROBINS’ OFFENSE
“We played them last year in the (state) quarterfinals, and were right in it. They had (Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm’s brother (current Mercer quarterback Dylan Fromm) at quarterback. This year, this (new) guy (junior Jalen Addie) could be the difference. He can make all the throws, he’s good runner and he’s commanded the offense. We had no answer for him (in this year’s quarterfinals). Most of their (running) backs are good, and don’t forget about (receiver Marcayll) Jones, their slot guy. He’s got some giddy-up.”
“They’re solid. We are well prepared for them. Of course, we moved the ball against Warner Robins, but we had trouble scoring points. (Buford’s) front is good. Their linebackers are solid, but I don’t think they’re as talented as Warner Robins’. On the back end, they played more guys than Warner Robins, so it’s hard to get a read. We might’ve just (made them mad). They can dial it up. We found some time (against Buford’s pass rush). Our offensive line played a little better than we did against Warner Robins, but both (teams) can get pressure.”
KEYS TO BEATING BUFORD
“Quarterback play will be important for both teams. (Buford’s Jarvis Evans Jr. and Addie have both) got two be efficient, period. Whoever is more accurate throwing and moves the chains with big a key. Both are really great teams and great programs. For Buford, if they can get their running game going, they’re tough because hey can wear on you.”
KEYS TO BEATING WARNER ROBINS
“You’ve got to keep the Warner Robins offense off the field. They’re playing with confidence right no and can score a lot of points a lot of different ways. They’re a little more versatile (than Buford’s offense).”
PLAYERS YOU HAVE TO STOP ON BUFORD
“The running backs. I don’t know which one they’re going to go with, but No. 22 (Gabe Ervin Jr.), No. 3 (Elijah Turner) and (Venn) have all been effective, and if they’re going to be successful, they can really ground and pound you. And they can run off chunk plays, too. If they get that going right in there, they’re going to be tough.”
PLAYER YOU HAVE TO STOP ON WARNER ROBINS
“The quarterback (Addie). He’s the weapon. I think he’s pretty special. He can make all the throws. He’s got a good arm. He can run it and throw it. If they get that going, they could be tough.”
“My heart is kind of with Buford. Having played both, there are a lot of variables. … One thing I respect the most about Buford that the road they had to travel (to the championship game) was pretty spectacular — not only in terms of distance, but the competition they had to face. … Warner Robins has been comfortable the past last month or so. No one has really pushed them. Buford has been in dogfights and worn down three really good teams. My instincts tell me this might be (Warner Robins’) time, but my heart is with Buford.”