Familiarity should be a common theme when the Westfield Hornets and Stratford Eagles square off for the GISA AAA state championship Saturday.
Both teams run the wing-T on offense and have already played once this season when Westfield defeated Stratford 21-20 on Sept. 29.
I just think the teams that run the football -- and thats us and Stratford -- are the teams that usually end up in the final, Westfield head coach Ronnie Jones said. People watch TV and see teams throwing it 15 or 20 times a game, and I guess thats prettier, but thats just not what we do or what we believe in.
Were going to look identical.
The Hornets have been a consistent contender for the state championship since Jones arrived, but hes still searching for his first ring with Westfield in his 20th year leading the program.
This is what you set your goals for to start the year, and were here, Jones said. I told the players that you dont get this opportunity very often in your life to be in something like this, and were just proud to be here and have a chance.
Westfield is riding an 11-game winning streak, but the season didnt get off to the best start. The Hornets struggled in a scrimmage on the road against Gatewood and then were shutout 21-0 by Tattnall in their first regular season game.
Im going to be honest. When we got back from (Gatewood) we did not feel very good at all as a staff at that point, Jones said. We had some good players returning and a small nucleus coming back, but we had moved some guys around. Most of our starters are made up of sophomores and juniors.
The young Hornets came together averaging 36 points per game since the loss to the Trojans and going undefeated in GISA Region 1-AAA.
We dont have any selfishness, Jones said. Weve won 11 ball games, and in my backfield I dont even have a 1,000-yard rusher unless (Chandler) Duggan got right there at it the other night. Even defensively we dont have any stars or studs over there; we just play well together.
We made a lot of mistakes and didnt score against Tattnall, but I knew at that point that the potential was there. I said we were going to get better every week, and thats what happened.
Saturdays championship will be the first playoff game played at Mercer University Stadium and the first game the Hornets have ever played on a field turf surface.
Its exciting for me to be there in an atmosphere like that, Jones said. There should be a bunch of people there and its at a neutral site, so theres no excuses about playing here or there. Its just an exciting time for our kids and our school.
Contact Ryan Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org.