Gaston goes for upset of second-ranked Lanett

Gaston coach Swane Morris has breathed new life into the Gaston football program after the Bulldogs were winless last season. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times | File)

It’s been a heck of a ride, and Gaston coach Swane Morris hopes it doesn’t end Friday night.

In his first year back leading his alma mater, Morris has turned the Bulldogs around from a winless 2012 to a 7-3 playoff team with most of the same personnel.

“It’s been awesome, getting to come back home, to be around the kids and the spirit that is Gaston to me,” he said. “The way that they (the players) have responded to what I’ve asked them to do throughout the year, I’m just very thankful for the way things have worked out.”

Gaston slipped into the postseason with some help. If Westbrook Christian had beaten North Sand Mountain in Week 9, the Bulldogs would not be playing Friday night.

However, the Warriors fell to the Bison 15-14, and Gaston completed its astounding turnaround with a spot in the playoffs. That doesn’t appear to be enough for Morris, though.

“We’re not ready to stop riding yet,” he said.

The Bulldogs have turned their attention to Friday night's opponents, the Lanett Panthers. Gaston will be on the road for the game.

The Panthers are 9-0 and ranked No. 2 in 2A. They dominate on both sides of the ball: their offense averages 39.7 points per game while their defense allows opponents to score just 13.4 points per outing.

Lanett has failed to beat its opponent by at least 11 points in just one game all season.

“They’re a running team; they’re going to run the ball,” Morris said. “They run out of a Wing-T and only run about four plays, but they do it out of multiple, multiple formations.”

Marlon Bridges is the team’s top ballcarrier. He rushed for 222 yards and three scores on just nine carries in Lanett’s last game, a 50-7 win over Horseshoe Bend in Week 9 (the Panthers had a bye in Week 10).

Quarterback Mandell Ray also is a threat to run the ball, and players such as Jamarious Barrow and Cameron Trammell also are dangerous with the ball in their hands.

“The big thing is the multiple formations, making sure you recognize everything and not letting the formation get you out of position or confused,” Morris said. “No. 4 (Bridges) is definitely their go-to guy, but they have three other guys who will get the ball. They can scoot it pretty good.

“They try to get to the flanks, but they still have a fullback that can get it up in there.”

Gaston will counter with Braxton Collins, Shai Ogles and Jailyn Britton, its trio of talented runners. Quarterback Jordan Douglas also can make plays when the Bulldogs go to the air. Ogles has proven to be a prime receiving threat as well.