Savannah Christian Raiders (3-A)
Coach: Baker Woodward
Last week: Beat Savannah Country Day 35-14
Wesleyan Wolves (5-A)
Coach: Franklin Pridgen
Last week: Beat Christian Heritage 34-13
Wesleyan had a valuable playoff lesson reenforced as it gathered on the field at Christian Heritage last Friday night. With the Wolves basking in a definitive second-round win, Christian Heritage’s coach came over to talk to them.
“They underestimated us after we almost lost to (First Presbyterian in the first round),” Wesleyan head coach Franklin Pridgen said. “Our one focus is to make sure we’re not doing that with Savannah Christian, who is a 16 seed. They’ve won big games when they had to. They were a semifinalist last year. They are 100 percent accustomed to winning.
“The good news is our kids are dialed in. It’s the quarterfinals, but we also had an opposing coach admit to our face that they underestimated us.”
The Wolves, who have been a dominant second-half team this season, got off to a hot start against Christian Heritage. They stuffed them on fourth down from the 2 yard line on the opening series, then proceeded to go on a 98-yard scoring drive.
Wesleyan led wire to wire, with quarterback J.C. French leading the attack. The Wolves defense did make some coverage errors facing a fast running back. It’s another lesson reenforced as they prepare to take on a Savannah Christian senior back Marquell Brown.
At a small school, it’s not easy for the scout team to replicate the speed of a running game. Wesleyan’s quarterback coach is alum Andrew Frerking, who played at Baylor, so the starting defensive players get a good test on pass coverage.
“But running the ball is tough,” Pridgen said. “It takes time to get acclimated with the opposing team’s speed and we made a couple of mistakes in alignment on the first series last week.
“(Savannah Christian) found a very consistent running game with a very fast back. He isn’t big, but he’s elusive. They’ve complimented him with a passing attack that is getting better. They have found more balance in their offense than they had earlier in the season, but they are going to look to establish No. 6 every which way possible. The key is how quickly we adapt to him.”
Last meeting: Savannah Christian won 28-13 in 2010 semifinals