Friday Preview: Bulldogs open league play with clean slate
The Thomasville Bulldogs head into this week's game versus West Davidson with a singular goal in mind.
Assistant coach Dickie Cline says his players are bent on wiping the bitter taste of nonconference play from their mouths. Starting on Friday, a new season begins as far as the Bulldogs are concerned. And their record stands at 0-0.
“It's a clean slate, and now is when all the games do matter,” Cline said. “Hopefully the kids realize that."
A new-found optimism is quite a contrast to what the team's fan base has exhibited through early-season struggles, including a running four-game losing streak. Thomasville has lost its last two games by a combined seven points.
"I don't know how you attribute that, lack of focus, attention to detail, youth. It could be several things, but it's frustrating," Cline admitted. "If we overcome these things, we could compete for a conference championship.”
The key to contending in the conference may be cutting down on some costly mistakes. Sophomore Jalen Jenkins tossed an interception at a crucial juncture of last week's game against Fort Chiswell, forcing a pass into double coverage less than a minute until halftime.
Jenkins' pass was intercepted and returned 53 yards for a touchdown to give the Pioneers a 21-17 lead. That pick-six became the final score of the night.
"We felt like we made some progress, not as much as we were hoping for, but we made some progress," Cline said. "In these last couple games — which we could very easily have won — we're still making mental mistakes that we need to overcome. It seems like we're kind of snake-bitten at crucial times. When you play good teams, a lot of times you can't overcome that."
The Bulldogs have played plenty of good teams thus far in the season. Fortunately, the schedule lightens considerably as they enter Central Carolina Conference play with their lone win coming Week 2 over Mount Airy. Thomasville’s road to contention begins with the Green Dragons, who come into Friday's tussle with a 4-2 mark.
West Davidson operates a spread offense and likes to stretch the defense and spread it out all over the field. Quarterback Graham Shoaf will be throwing the ball to a trio of big-play receivers led by Zach Queen, one of two wideouts with a significant height advantage on the Bulldogs secondary. A third will line up in the slot and is a smaller "Wes Welker-type," according to Cline.
Aside from the X's and O's, the game at Cushwa on Friday will boil down to confidence in making the right plays and the wisdom to turn down .
"We know we've got a very tough opponent," the coach said. "It's the little things that's keeping us from being consistent, a missed assignment here and there. You can block 10 of them, but if you don't block the one at the point of attack, that's what takes you out of rhythm. We've got to eliminate the interceptions and fumbles. There have been some pretty nice sparks, which lets us know against good opponents, we're capable of moving the football."
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.