White Knoll, fresh from its first win under new coach Gordon Walters, has a tough assignment in Friday’s home opener at The Wolf Den against highly regarded Airport.
“I’m not a big stats guy, but I can say that we made a lot of improvement as a team last week,” said Walters, referring to his team’s 36-19 win over Lower Richland.
“We really hurt ourselves in the first game at Lugoff-Elgin. We had more than 200 yards rushing against a very good team, but we fumbled going into the end zone after a long run and were stopped on fourth down at the goal line another time. Against Lower Richard we just executed better on both sides of the ball. It was good to see, but we still have a long way to go.”
The win was important, of course, but it was just a small step in the direction Walters wants the program to go.
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“I know it’s a cliché, but we’re trying to change the football culture here,” he said. “That means we’re not building for a season. We’re trying to build a program. The legacy for the senior and junior classes is to be part of laying the foundation for having consistent success. They understand that.”
The Timberwolves are making a rather significant change on offense under Walters – going to the double wing from the spread.
“Yes, it’s a big change, but the kids have bought into it,” said Walters. “It’s an offense that takes a while to learn. It’s better suited to the personnel and it gives us a better chance to control the clock and compete. It’s something I’ve used everywhere I’ve been since 1999.”
Airport is off to a 2-0 start with seniors WT Murden, Ryan Smith and Chris Phillips in the forefront.
Murden, the three-year starting quarterback, is off to a great start with 291 yards rushing and five touchdowns and 281 yards passing and five scoring throws. Last week, Murden’s composure under pressure was the key factor in the Eagles thrilling 43-42 overtime win at Lugoff-Elgin.
The fleet Smith has 205 yards rushing (7.2 yards average) and two scoring runs, and four catches for 64 yards and one TD. Phillips, another three-year starter, has been a force up front on defense and leads the team with 24 tackles.
Receiver Derek Cushman is another key factor on the attack with six catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns. He caught a fourth-down touchdown pass and then grabbed the decisive two-point conversion toss from Murden on an improvised play in overtime last week.
The series has been competitive through the years. Airport’s 19-7 win a year ago staked the Eagles to a 4-3 lead.