No. 4 Southside hosts Wenonah

Blake Devine and the fourth-ranked Southside Panthers host Wenonah on Friday night. (Photo by Eric T. Wright | Gadsden Times)

It’s just not adding up.

Wenonah gives up an average of about nine points per game and hasn’t allowed more than 14 points in a single contest this season. Yet the Dragons — Class 5A, No. 4 Southside’s first-round playoff opponent Friday night — are 5-5. 

So what gives?

“Looking at their films, it seems like every game they play is against themselves,” Southside (10-0) interim coach Ron Daugherty said. “They’ve had a little bit of trouble with their identity of what they’re going to run offensively.”

Wenonah, who landed the fourth playoff spot of Region 5, started out as a spread team running a lot of zone reads. In the last few games, however, the Dragons have mixed in a power run attack from under center. No matter what they do on offense, there’s one thing they do consistently — defend.

Against the other three playoff teams out of Region 5 — McAdory, Parker and Pleasant Grove — the Dragons allowed just 20 points total but went 1-2. Wenonah beat region champ and 10th-ranked McAdory 8-0 in Week 9. McAdory averages 26 points per game. The Dragons gave up 13 points to Pleasant Grove (33 points per game average) and seven points to Parker (25 points per game average).

Wenonah has given up just one touchdown in the past four weeks, as in last week’s loss to 6A Carver-Birmingham, a fumble return for a score proved to be the difference in a 10-6 loss.

Wenonah’s defense, as Daugherty put it, “has the beef and the guys that can fly to the football.” Raymond Richards, at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, helps lead the defensive front. Linebackers Josephus Smith and Quincy Williams are two of the top tacklers, and DeAngelo Jackson — a 6-foot-1, 185-pound safety — is solid both in coverage and in supporting the run defense.

Southside’s big offensive front will have its hands full if it wants to produce a similar result to last week’s 34-28 win over Moody. The Panthers’ offensive line paved the way for Dantley Coker’s 376 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

“All those guys do a heck of a job,” Daugherty said of his offensive line. “There were times that Dantley had already gained eight yards and he still had a lineman in front of him.”

The offensive line has stayed strong despite losing starting guard Baylon Stokes to injury two weeks ago. Matt Aldridge stepped in at left tackle, while SEC prospect Tyler Carr moved to left guard. Daugherty said he wasn’t sure if that’s how they’ll line up Friday night, but he did like having Aldridge and Carr lining up side-by-side.

“That’s two pretty big bodies there together,” Daugherty said. “It’s just easier to move the guy (Carr) with more experience.”

Coker’s likely to get most of the carries Friday night, with Blake Devine and Holt Keeling providing speed around the edge at the wing back position.

Aleric Williams, a freshman who had started at wing back since Week 1, will not play Friday night after suffering a knee injury last week. Wide receiver Jason Gahaffer also suffered an injury last week and will have to sit out.