The Bears cannot afford to be in hibernation during this trip - they need to come out for a full 48 minutes to defeat a 9-2 Pirates team that’s won seven straight games and averaged 30 points per game at home this season. Overall, the Pirates averaged 32 points per game and allowed 18 per game, while Griffin, which has won five straight games, averaged 33 points per game and allowed 14. This game could be the proverbial irresistible force meeting the immovable object.
“You really never know how the long trip will affect the guys - we could have a slow start, then pick it up by the fourth quarter. We could start out fast, then be a bit winded by the fourth,” said Bears head coach Steve DeVoursney. “Then again, we could come out and play like we just traveled down the street without any effects at all.”
The Bears coaching staff hopes the latter applies for Griffin (8-3). The Pirates feature several players who have great speed, especially at the wide receiver position, said Bears defensive coordinator Rusty Easom.
“They’ve got guys who can flat-out fly and their quarterback [Davis Hoyt] is good and doesn’t make mistakes,” Easom said.
The Pirates feature four players with more than 200 yards receiving, including seniors Wesley Smith (34 receptions for 498 yards, 6 touchdowns), Darius Slay (30-532-5) and junior Josh Coleman (13-202-2). Hoyt, a senior, has passed for 1,672 yards with 18 TDs and 8 interceptions while completing 57 percent of his passes (114-for-200). And there’s the matter of containing senior running back Harold Small, who’s rushed for 1,452 yards on 192 carries and has 18 touchdowns. Small also has three receiving TDs.
“We’ve got to hold those guys down and keep the pressure on them,” DeVoursney said. “If we can force some turnovers, we can come out of the game with a win.”
On offense, Griffin has to avoid the turnover bug and not give Brunswick good field position. Bears offensive coordinator Bill Kelly said the Pirates defense is the fastest defense they will have played all year.
“They like to play that 3-5 defense and they also like to stunt on the line. We’ve got to come off our blocks well in order to push this team back,” Kelly said. “We’ve also got to hold on to the ball and not get silly penalties on offense as well.”
Slay, along with Small and Smith, starts in the secondary for Brunswick and the Brunswick coaches feel Slay could possibly be an NFL prospect down the road.
Griffin’s intensity on defense may be the key to tonight’s contest - if linebacker Cartavious Woods (team-leading 102 tackles, 70 solo) and the rest of the Bears defense buckles down and gives the Griffin offense field position, the Bears have a good chance to win. There is good incentive to win for Griffin: Another home playoff game. Tonight’s winner will host the winner of the Southwest DeKalb/Cedar Shoals contest in the state quarterfinals. Should the Bears pull out another second-round win tonight, the bus ride back home will be the shortest 273 miles in history.