FLORENCE, S.C. – While the hype builds around Wilson’s on-campus home game – the first in program history – on Friday against Lower Richland, Tigers coach Derek Howard’s goal is to keep the players focused.
And that point of focus, of course, is the game.
Not the location of the game.
But what can happen in it.
“Quite honestly, I told the kids that everything that happens leading up to the game has very little to do with us,” Howard said. “We play on a 100-yard field and the only thing we can control is what happens between the lines. Our part goes from 7:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. and it’s our responsibility to make sure we handle business when it comes to our game.”
With a win, Wilson can become 4-0 for the first time in years.
And how fitting is it that on Wilson’s on-campus game night that the Tigers’ opponent, Lower Richland, is coached by a former Wilson football player in Rodney Barr?
It’s a homecoming in more ways than one although this isn’t the school’s official homecoming night (that’s Oct. 18 against Hartsville at Florence’s Memorial Stadium).
While Wilson’s offense is finding ways to score on the ground and through the air, the Tigers’ defense is stifling opponents to give the offense enough time to figure what works.
Wilson’s defense, coached by defensive coordinator Micah Young, has recorded 15 sacks during the past two weeks (five in last week’s 26-0 win against South Florence).
Kemuel Arthur leads the Tigers this season with four sacks, followed by Ahmad Bowman, JoCorien Groover, Shamaree Timmons with three each.
“Our defense has speed and tenacity,” Howard said. “They’re just hungry to be successful. They want to get after the football and play as a unit. They make it hard for you to execute and our offense has to go against it every day. Some people say our offense is pretty good, but it struggles against our defense because of all the things our defense can do. They cause chaos and just fly all over the field.”
Now, back to Wilson’s offense.
Rice has passed for 613 yards and six touchdowns in addition to rushing for 177 more and three more scores. And Yavin Smith has accounted for 127 yards and two scores in addition to 136 receiving yards and an additional touchdown. Then there is Jakobe Quillen with 221 yards and two scores via receptions.
And then there is running back Chris Austin who has rushed for 218 yards and a score.
“Defenses try to take away the things you do well. They take one thing away, it makes it easier for us to do something else we do well,” Howard said. “If you’re going to cover our receivers, we’ve got running backs who can run pretty good. Most teams want to stop the run first, but if they stack the box, that leaves alone some of our receivers in open space.
“If you double cover Quillen, then Timothy Robinson Jr. or Ji'travious Sherrills or (Smith) are left by themselves,” he added. “I’ve never had this many options in what we can do with the football.”