When Wesleyan head coach Franklin Pridgen was breaking down of the Wolves’ final regular-season opponent, Trinity Christian, he paused.
“Frankly, I feel like I’m describing Wesleyan,” he said.
The two teams have identical records — 7-2 overall and 4-2 in Region 5-A. Their region losses are to the same two teams — Holy Innocents’ and Eagle’s Landing Christian. The scores versus common opponents are eerily similar, with the exception of Mount Vernon. Trinity Christian had a much tough time, needing overtime to win.
Both teams like to throw the ball with standout sophomores at quarterback (David Dallas and J.C. French) and get aggressive on defense.
And on the line today is a likely first-round bye in the playoffs. In Class A, with power rankings, the top eight teams get next week off.
“They definitely are really good and they have everything to play for,” Pridgen said. “I feel like one of us is going to get top eight and the other won is going to be about 10th. It should be a really, really good football game.”
Wesleyan certainly played the more difficult non-region schedule, another factor in the power rankings. The Wolves beat Class AAAAAAA Meadowcreek to start the season, then avenged 2018 losses to Class AA Chattooga and Class A perennial power Prince Avenue Christian.
“There’s a chance we could win and still get pushed to ninth,” Pridgen said. “What happens in about six games, including ours, will have a significant impact on the top 10 in our class.”
One area Wesleyan does have an advantage is across the line.
“We’ve got some really good guys there that are ready to perform,” Pridgen said. “But we’re going to have to be at our absolute best. The defensive line has to get pressure and contain (the quarterback’s) run. If we create lanes, he’ll escape. At the same time, I think he feels pressure quickly. His pocket presence is not his strength. He’s going to tuck it and try to get out of there. If we’re doing it right, we can force them to make a mistake.”
Many of those same defensive linemen turn over and will have to protect French, who has 1,632 yards (similar to Dallas’ total). French threw for 310 yards and five touchdowns on 21 of 28 passing last week while also rushing for another score. Senior Micah Smith (38 catches for 582 yards and nine TDs) and sophomore Cooper Blauser (38 catches for 528 yards and five TDs) have been his top targets this season.
Running backs Griffin Caldwell and J.D. Chipman have combined for the bulk of the carries and nearly 700 yards. Chipman, a junior, also has been a wrecking ball on defense with 41 tackles — third behind seniors Josh Aspinwall (76) and Cardo Gottlich (68).
Wesleyan had to shuffle some players around in recent weeks due to injury, but has everyone back where they’re most comfortable.