It’s the first of three tough games in a row for the Steve DeVoursney-coached Griffin High football team, which finished 9-3 a season ago and ventured to the second round of the state playoffs for a school-record fourth consecutive season. While games next week at Northgate and the week after at home against Jonesboro loom large for Griffin, make no mistake DeVoursney and his staff have devoted their full attention this week to Dutchtown.
“They have always played us tough,” DeVoursney, in his 12th year guiding the Bears, said of this week’s opponent.
Led by sixth-year head coach Jason Galt, Dutchtown is coming off a 5-5 campaign.
Though Griffin holds a 4-0 lead in the all-time series with the Bulldogs, a number of games have see-sawed back and forth. None more so than a 10-6 game in 2010 at Dutchtown where the teams traded field goals early before Griffin broke off a long touchdown run late in the game to seal the victory. A 27-22 game in 2008 at Memorial Stadium was also noteworthy.
In-between there was a 28-7 win in 2009 at Dutchtown. Most recently there was a 28-18 come-from-behind win last year at Memorial Stadium during the eighth game of the regular season in a game much closer than the final score indicates. That’s the same week the teams played in 2010, while in 2008 and 2009 they met during the ninth game of the regular season.
DeVoursney is wondering if meeting early could make a difference.
“We’ve always played them at the end (of the season),” said DeVoursney. “Usually we both get a lot better (as the season goes on), so it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out and who has the advantage.”
Heading into Friday’s game, both teams pack an offense with power.
“They’re trying to feature their quarterback,” DeVorusney said of the Bulldogs Double Wing/Wing-T offense. “He’s a good athlete, and they have two good running backs and a good offensive line.”
Those who remember the Bulldogs’ two-tight run-preferred attack of the past few years, however, might need to rethink what they expect to see this week.
“In the past they have been probably 90 percent run to only 10 percent pass — and it was play-action stuff — whereas now they it seems like they are trying to throw more to feature that quarterback,” DeVoursney said. “It looks like they are more 70 to 30.”
Sixth-year Griffin High defensive coordinator Rusty Easom — who noted Dutchtown has a little more speed than it has had in the past — has Griffin prepared to cover run or pass.
On the other side of the ball, Dutchtown has always been noted for its high-pressure defense.
This year is no different — especially since Griffin has switched to more of a passing attack.
“They’re going to bring six men on every play,” second-year Bears offensive coordinator Justin Rogers said of the Bulldogs. “We just have to get speed in space. They’re going to make a few big plays on us… but we’ll be looking for the big plays when we get the opportunity.”
Back to lead Griffin’s offense is second-year starter Jaquez Parks, a junior, who rallied Griffin to a victory over the Bulldogs last season. Some of his favorite targets this week figure to be running back DeVontae Freeman and receivers Quay Mangham, Christian Owens, Jordan Colbert and Keyston Fulller as well as Moses Mayes.
DeVoursney believes limiting mistakes is the key to victory.
“I think just holding onto the football — we can’t give them any cheap points or turnovers or things like that,” said DeVoursney, whose team trailed 12-7 last year after the Bulldogs recovered a blocked punt in the end zone less than two minutes into the second half. “They put a lot of pressure on you — which they did to us last year. We turned the ball over three times which set up touchdowns for them.”
He doesn’t want to see any such thing this season.
DeVoursney rates both teams about equal on special teams.