The West Georgia Wolves are chomping at the bit in preparation of their season opener this weekend at Catawba.
“Truth be told, the guys are just ready to hit someone else at this point,” said David Dean, head football coach at West Georgia. “We are ready to head up to Salisbury, N.C., this Saturday to take on a really good Catawba Indians team.”
Dean enters his third year at the helm of the Wolves program. In his time at UWG, he has accumulated a 19-6 record, including a perfect 10-0 start last year.
Unfortunately, the latter half of 2018 was not friendly to West Georgia. The Wolves defeated all the competition in their first ten games and, aside from a couple close wins against Florida Tech and West Alabama, each victory was a blowout. Then came Nov. 10.
Dean and company went into hostile territory to take on rival Valdosta State. The Blazers of South Georgia knocked off the Wolves 47-31 en route to winning the Division II National Championship. West Georgia, on the other hand, would be upset 41-31 by #7 Wingate in the first round of the playoffs the following week.
The Wolves are out for redemption this year, to hear the coach put it. “We had a fantastic start to last year; it just did not end the way we hoped it would. The guys are ready to get going after those last two games of 2018.” said Coach Dean in Wednesday’s press conference.
Though West Georgia lost some great talent from a season ago, the team still returns a good core of starters. The team will be without leading rusher Devonte Jackson who was recently cut by the Denver Broncos. The star running back tallied 1320 yards and 12 scores a season ago. The rushing attack does return sophomore star Christian Royalston who netted 453 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman in 2018.
The biggest piece returning in Carrollton is quarterback Willie Candler. The senior gunslinger from Atlanta is now in his third full-year starting. He has passed for over 6300 yards and 60 touchdowns in 33 games. The dual threat athlete has also rushed for 736 yards and 11 scores.
With a depleted receiving core, there is plenty of opportunity for young guys to step up this season. Each of Candler’s four leading receivers in 2018- Ermoni Williams, Malik Henry, KJ Parmer, and Shannon Smith- either graduated or left the program in the offseason. Even with these departures, UWG retains talented deep threats like John Hurst, LaPerion Perry, and Thomas Lester.
Dean noted the open competition at the position this week. “We will have lots of freshman get playing time early on, and I think you will see that as early as the Catawba game this weekend. One freshman to keep an eye out for at wide out is Xyre Wilson,” he said. Wilson is a 6-foot 170-pound Buford product.
One area of uncertainty in the Wolves offense is along the offensive line. However, the head man says there is no need for concern. “We do lose four starts on the offensive line, but Coach Kyle Skierski will have them ready. He is a great coach, a great motivator, and he has been able to sure up some of those spots. Skierski does a fantastic job at putting them in a position to best use their talents,” said David Dean.
“The reason we put an emphasis on getting game experience for backups is because you never know when you will need them ready. All the starters on the o-line were backups last year and got playing time there.”
The third-year leader also had some high praise for veteran players. “Two of our team captains this year are defensive end Chad Price and linebacker Korie Rogers. Leadership is invaluable, and these guys are straight leaders. For Chad, this is his second year as a team captain. As for Korie, he does a good job of leading by example and showing the young guys what to do to be successful.” said Dean.
As for their first week matchup, West Georgia will head to North Carolina this Saturday for a noon kickoff at Catawba. The Indians finished 2018 with four wins and seven losses, including a 34-3 loss in Carrollton. However, Coach Dean had high praise for the program, stating that they “have very talented defenders returning. They are well coached and it is always hard to go up there and win a game against them.”
The 2019 season for West Georgia football kicks off tomorrow at noon in Salisbury, N.C. The Wolves will take on the Catawba Indians at noon. To tune in, fans can listen to KISS 102.7 for the game or follow live stats at uwgsports.com.