North Forsyth, a playoff team from a year ago, was quickly overwhelmed by Cherokee in a 34-14 loss last week in Cumming. Cherokee was coming off a season in which it only won twice on the field.
“They made some mistakes, and they just happened to be really costly mistakes,” Woodstock coach Brent Budde said. “I thought they played closer than the score indicated. I definitely think they are better than how they played (last) Friday.”
More importantly than earning a victory Friday, Budde said Woodstock’s first four games would be important toward working for the team’s Region 5AAAAA schedule, which starts Sept. 23 at Cherokee.
“I think that you basically have four preseason games in our region,” he said. “This is a preseason game. I just told my players and coaching staff that we are working towards jelling when we hit region play. I thought an announcer said in the Corky Kell Classic on TV (last Saturday) that everyone wants to win those games, but, ultimately, they don’t affect your chances of making it to the playoffs.
“I want to take care of the ball and play good Woodstock football — how I’ve grown to know it.”
Included in Budde’s effort to get the Wolverines ready for their season opener will be an opportunity to show that the defense can function without several key facets from last year’s team, including linebackers Zach Hitt and Chas Pierce and the entire secondary. In their stead, Budde expects senior linebacker Nick Leeper and senior defensive lineman Johnny Clark to lead this year’s defense.
Leeper will be playing in his natural position at outside linebacker, but Clark is being shuffled to the middle due to a groin injury suffered by starter Jonah Schoeb that he hasn’t completely healed from. As a result, Christian Hunt, a junior transfer from North Cobb Christian, will replace Clark on the defensive line, while senior David Brown, also Woodstock’s starting fullback, may be playing both ways.
“There will be an impact on the front three,” Budde said. “David Brown is playing a little both ways. Kendall Hunter, who’s a senior, poses quickness and strength up front. Then, there is (junior nose guard) Wesley Pella. We’re looking for him to step up. He’s a big nose guard and might be one of our next defensive players to be our next big college signee. He has the size and ability to do it.”
Offensively, senior Jonathan Wiener will earn the start at quarterback after serving as Kevin Bolak’s backup last year. Though Wiener showed plenty of aptitude for the position last season, he may be splitting time with senior Pryce Washington, who transferred into the program last year from Whitefield Academy.
“Jon Wiener started games in absence of Kevin Bolak and did a great job,” Budde said. “We’re throwing Pryce Washington into the mix. He stepped in during the scrimmage game. We got him the ball outside the edge, and he got good positive yards out there.”
Regardless of which player takes the snaps, Budde made it clear before the season that both will be on the field at the same time, with whoever is not at quarterback playing at wide receiver.
On top of the team’s quarterback situation, Woodstock is looking for someone to step in for leading rusher Tanner Skogen, who is now at Furman. Brown may see time at fullback, though his duties will likely be more on the defensive side of the ball in Week 1. With that, senior running back Ryan Hendon will be the Wolverines’ feature back.