College Park's War of the Woods: 16 yrs in the making
If they win, College Park will be named District Champions for the first time since the school opened in 2006.
College Park High School hasn't made the playoffs since the 2015-2016 season and has also never won a playoff game. Going into the final game with a 4-0 record in district and a 7-1 overall, the Cavaliers are ready to fight.
With such high stakes for this championship game, Assistant Coach Chris Garrison says, "To be honest, we are treating this game like all the others. We will have the same weekly routine that we have had throughout the season. We always tell the kids to not let any one game be bigger than it is. Our goal is to be 1 and 0 after each game and this one is no different. Our kids are excited, and they know what is on the line."
The defense has been strong and stood out all year, keeping most district games low scoring with senior powerhouses Dylan Hazen and Curt Evangelister leading their teammates. I spoke with junior defensive lineman, Andrew Edmonson, about this upcoming week and he said,
"For us, it's just about playing our game and reading our keys. The coaches always get us a really solid game plan coming into each week, so we just have to perform week in and week out."
For the defensive line itself, he says, "We've stuffed the run all year, but haven't conjured up the pass rush we want to, so that's a big focus recently, along with using our hands more violently."
To win games you also have to score, and College Park has been no stranger to the end zone this year. With a speedy running back in Dylon Deangelo and a fast wide receiver core, they have had major success moving the ball.
I talked with junior wide receiver Holden Rook about the offense and this week's game and he commented, "We really just plan on going out and executing like we do every week. The biggest part of our offense is running the ball and if we can't get that going we might start to spread it out a little. We just gotta go out strong and fast."
It's no surprise that College Park hasn't had much success in the past. With the District Championship and playoffs right around the corner, it takes a lot to step up, compete and win.
Senior quarterback Hank Hudson says, "It takes everybody. We find ways to make big plays and never get complacent." Also, from the senior and leadership perspective of bringing a team to the playoffs, Hudson said, "It's going to take getting young guys comfortable. Making sure everybody knows what they're doing."
College Park's best year was back in the 2007-2008 season, going 4-1 in district. This year's team is definitely special.
Going into the playoffs, Coach Garrison talked about what sets them apart from past teams and how they can keep winning, saying, "This team has a hard working mentality and a toughness to them. They put in the work on the practice field, weight room, in film study and it is paying off. We have had injuries throughout the season and we have always had someone step up when needed. Everyone practices and prepares like they are starters, because you never know when your number will be called. We are fortunate to have built some quality depth.
"The kids are finding ways to win games, whether that be on offense, defense, or special teams. We as a program have reached one of our goals of securing a playoff spot but we are always preaching about not being satisfied."
The War of the Woods is this Friday, November 27th. Two teams enter undefeated in district, one will leave District Champions.