The Fayetteville Pirates invade Williamstown at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the first round of state playoff action. The Pirates completed the regular season with a 7-3 slate while the Yellowjackets ended the regular season at 8-2.
The Pirates overcame many graduation losses in their run back into the playoffs and their three defeats can be misleading, as all three have came at the hands of state playoff qualifiers.
Fayetteville possesses a dangerous running attack going into the contest with running back Hunter Hernandez leading the way with 1,611 yards on the year. Chris Hill and Elijah Lewis will also see carries for the Pirates in a very deep and versatile backfield.
The Yellowjackets of head coach Terry Smith have some things in common with Fayetteville, as Williamstown's only losses were also to state playoff qualifiers, in Wirt County and Magnolia, and the Jacket's dynamic ground game matches up well with anyone in the state.
"We need to establish the run in order to set up the pass. We have to throw the ball when we want to, not when they dictate it, We have to block, you have to be good up front in order to win" said Smith.
Williamstown boasts a plethora of good running backs led by the bull-dozing Matt Hendrickson. With Hendrikson softening up the defense between the tackles, it opens things up for speed backs like Trey King, Anthony Yeager and Zach Zide, and can make for a long night for the opposition.
The Yellowjackets strive for offensive balance and would like to see quarterback Lane Knost completing passes to the likes of Yeager, Hunter Barton and Cody Britton. Such balance would keep Fayetteville off balance and unable to key on the Williamstown backs.
On the defensive side of the ball, the job is pretty clear cut for the Yellowjackets, stop Hernandez.
"He is a real good back, not that big, but really fast and breaks tackles. They get him the ball every way they can. We are going to have to know where he is at all times and tackle. Everything we do on defense is going to have to be predicated on stopping him," said Smith.
Britton could be a wildcat in the contest, as he has broke several kick returns this year for long touchdowns. As in most playoff scenarios, special teams, turnovers and penalties will probably tell the tail.
"We need to keep it simple, block and tackle. Sometimes coaches try to complicate things too much," said Smith.
A game plan consisting of controlling the line of scrimmage, passing at will, and stopping the other team's best player sounds like a recipe for victory. Now comes the hard part for the Yellowjackets, executing the plan.
Jim Markley is a Marietta Times sports writer and can be reached at 376-5439