Gaston set to play 'fired up' West End


Gaston's Jailyn Britton and the Bulldogs travel to play West End on Friday night. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times | File)


West End and Gaston enter Friday night’s Class 2A, Region 7 high school football game with the same goal but for very different reasons.

Gaston wants to win to keep the hope of a playoff berth alive. West End wants to get its first victory of the season in a game that will be the Patriots’ final 2013 home contest before playing on the road in Week 10 to end the year.

“They’ll be fired up,” Gaston coach Swane Morris said of the 0-8 Patriots, who host the Bulldogs on senior night in Walnut Grove. “We’ve got to play well and take care of business. We’ve got to win this game if we’ve got any shot at the playoffs.”

West End coach Randy Hallmark knows the Patriots will be challenged offensively and defensively by Gaston, which is on the verge of a winning season after a winless 2012 before Morris’ return from three-year run as Scottsboro’s coach.

“That’s big, especially for our seniors. To go from 0-10 to a winning season is a big victory within itself,” Morris said.

If Gaston (5-3) defeats West End to improve to 4-3 in Region 7 play, the Bulldogs still need help to gain postseason play.

Even so, Morris said he’s told his players not to waste time worrying about things they can’t control.

“We can’t worry anything about what else has to happen,” Morris said of his conversation with his players. “First things first: we’ve got to worry about what we have to do and that’s do what we need to do to get a win.”

That includes, he said, limiting the yardage gained by West End fullback Chase Blanton.

“He does a good job running the football,” Morris said. “They do some things in formations, where they’ll spread it out and line up out of the gun and still be running out of the Wing-T. They can be confusing with formations. We can’t get caught up in looking for the ball. We’ve got to trust our keys and go after it.”

Aside from Blanton, the Patriots rely on quarterback Levi Weems to get the team down the field. When Blanton and Weems are running the ball, there’s a good chance its in the hands of Caegan Epperson, who’s also been a workhorse for West End’s run-first offense.

Hallmark credited Morris with having “done a great job of getting Gaston’s program turned around” and knows his Patriots need to be focused when taking the field and limit mistakes to be successful. “We’re going to have to contain their speed if we’re going to have a chance,” he said. “We need to control the ball and clock and keep their offense off the field as much as we can.”

Gaston’s offense is led by backs Braxton Collins and Shai Ogles, along with quarterback Jordan Douglas.