Plott believes Wildcats are ready to "turn a corner" in '17
Woodland High School football head coach Tony Plott has managed only one win over the past two seasons, but he knew when he took the job it was going to take some time to get the program moving in the right direction and he has plenty to be positive about in 2017.
“We knew the rebuilding project at Woodland was going to take three to four years,” Plott said recently in an interview with Kevin Pate at WBHF. “You can try to change the culture and the perception of your football program, but our primary goal when we took over was to reach a point where we were competitive. I believe at times we are very competitive, but we have some catching up to do with teams like Rome in our region. They are on a different level with up to eight college prospects on defense.”
Plott believes his 2017 edition of the Wildcats are ready to turn a corner.
“We’re geared to have a good year. We’ve made some progress in the weight room and we have matured some physically. In recent years, we’ve been playing on Friday nights with a lot of kids that should have been in JV games on Thursday afternoon. Those kids are now more physically prepared to handle the rigors of varsity football,” the coach remarked.
Woodland was 0-10 in 2016 and has won only one game in the past three seasons, but Plott was encouraged by the effort of his players and the development that has occurred.
“A positive for our kids last season was the fact they never gave up. They fought and played hard from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. Our kids take pride in that effort. We have great kids. Our season wasn’t what we wanted it to be record-wise last year, but it was a fun season for our coaching staff because of the effort and attitude our kids displayed,” noted Plott.
One of the major issues for the Woodland football program in recent years has been a lack of participation. Plott and his staff have worked tirelessley to increase the team’s numbers.
“We’re still lacking size,” added the Wildcats’ head coach. “We saw that a lot at camps this summer, but our guys don’t back down from that challenge. We ask our kids to go as hard as they can, one play at a time, and then get them off the field when needed. We are gradually building some depth. We finished spring practice with 92 kids.”
As a result, Woodland will strive to get more of those players into games.
“We spent the entire spring and summer strictly in a two-platoon system,” Plott said, “but as we get closer to the opening of the season we will likely have two or three difference-makers that will see action on both sides of the ball.”
Woodland, along with Bartow-rival Cass, will once again play in one of Georgia’s strongest football regions.
Defending state champion Rome heads a powerful group of teams in the ten-school league, along with Carrollton and Kell who reached the state’s final four and final eight, respectively.
Plott also pointed to other teams that have state playoff level talent in Class AAAAA. “I think Villa Rica will challenge for a top spot this year,” Plott projected. “They are physical, athletic, and I expect the new coaching staff there to have them playing at a high-level. Cass always plays hard and they have a quality team. Then of course the Paulding County schools — Paulding, Hiram, and East Paulding — also have really good athletes and solid teams. There’s just no room for error in our league,” he continued.
Plott was then asked to discuss some of the players he expects to emerge as team leaders in 2017.
“Justice Carter (5-7, 170, Jr.) will be our featured back on offense,” Plott stated. “In the T, he will get a lot of the carries. He really came alive in that offense over the last four games. He is a monster for his size in the weight room. He’s just physically rock-solid, really fast, and an all-around great kid. Justice had a great weekend at FCA camp. He ran up and down the field on some really good teams.”
Carter will get help in the Wildcats’ backfield from Demarcus Williams (5-11, Soph.), senior Evan Rose, and senior quarterback Brody Williams (6-0, 190).
“Demarcus Williams is a tough kid and a hard runner,” said coach Plott. “He will play some defense also and we expect to utilize his skills on a lot of our power plays. Evan Rose is probably our best blocking back and Brody Williams has done really well in our 7-on-7’s this summer. He’s had a great off-season.”
Plott knows that his skill-position players and his offense will only go if the group up front has a good year.
His offensive line will feature senior Diego Gonzalez, junior Carson Knox, junior Aaron Carlson, senior Austin Costlow, and junior Jalen Hudson.
As a group, they are undersized by Class AAAAA standards but a highly improved collection according to Plott.
“That’s a group that has grown into themselves,” noted the coach. “They have really improved and we are expecting a lot out of each of them.”
As he continued, Plott commented on a few other players.
“Seth Johnson had a good summer camp. He has done a great job and both defensive back and wide receiver. Kaeman Echols has performed well at middle linebacker. RJ Beaubrun and Dustin Ivie have played well at corner, and Titus Jones may be one of the best free safeties in the state,” Plott continued.
“Kurtis Feanny is another player that has really stepped up his game and become a great leader among the linemen,” he noted.
The Wildcats are optimistic following a productive off-season and their head coach’s remarks reflected that attitude.
“FCA was a huge success for us,” said Plott. “We had some really good performances by a lot of different groups. I think we are going to take a giant leap forward this year. I believe our fans and followers will see an improved product on the field. The kids are older, they understand what we are doing offensively and defensively, they are physically stronger, and hopefully all that translates into a more competitive team.”
Aug. 18 -- RIVER RIDGE
Aug. 25 -- open date
Sept. 1 -- ROCKMART
Sept. 8 -- at Cass
Sept. 15 -- VILLA RICA
Sept. 22 -- at Carrollton
Sept. 29 -- HIRAM
Oct. 6 -- PAULDING COUNTY
Oct. 13 -- at East Paulding
Oct. 20 -- open date
Oct. 27 -- KELL
Nov. 3 -- at Rome
Editors Note: Tune in to Bartow’s Morning News on WBHF (100.3FM / AM1450) each morning for features on all four local football programs until the regular season openers. Woodland will be featured the week of July 24, Cass the week of July 31, Adairsville the week of August 7, and Cartersville the week of August 14.