Football Season Recap
Tariah Harrell, Staff Writer
Coach Joe Reich and the Wingate Bulldogs will make their way to Jefferson City, Tenn., at 1 p.m. this Saturday, where they will take on the Carson-Newman Eagles. Carson-Newman has moved the ball successfully in the past years against the Bulldogs, and now the Bulldogs are eager to go head-to-head with them this weekend.
After week 7, the Wingate Bulldogs football team has an overall record of 6-1 and a conference record of 3-1. The Bulldogs took their first lost this season to the 2015 South Atlantic Conference champions, the Catawba Indians by a 48-26 score.
This past week, the Bulldogs took on and beat their rival the Lenoir- Rhyne University Bears 49-6 without two of their star players running back Lawrence Pittman, and defensive back redshirt sophomore Kam Johnson who are both out with a season-ending injury. During the Lenoir-Rhyne game this past Saturday, the Bulldogs also lost redshirt junior wide receiver Adam Riley II also to a now season-ending injury.
Wingate’s head football coach Joe Reich, who is in this 16th season as the Bulldog’s leader, feels that the team is adjusting due to the recent injuries that has occurred on their team. “The team is remarkably resilient” Reich says. “As much as we hate having those guys out, we have to have a ‘next man up’ mentality. LP and Adam would be the first to tell you that. Junior running back Blake Hayes has played two great games in LP’s absence. I feel really good about where we are at right now”.
The Bulldogs has been having a great season so far. Coach Reich feels that the season is going pretty well and he is liking how much effort they are putting into their practices. “The positives this season has to be effort, focus, and team energy. With those things, the wins will come along” Reich says. “As of negatives, those three injuries; it is tough to see those guys work that hard and not get to seem them finish”.
“The highlights from this season so far would simply just be being able to be with my brothers and teammates all year,” senior quarterback Kyle Johnson says. “As it is my last season, I have been trying to soak in every second with my team, and it has been so much fun. I am so lucky that my team has voted me as captain the last three years and have trusted me to help lead our team. I will never be apart of a brotherhood like this one for the rest of my life; there’s nothing like it” Johnson added.
Preparing for an overnight trip for the game on Saturday at Carson-Newman, sophomore defensive back Cameron Mattison, who is a transfer from Toledo University in Ohio, says that preparing for this game was not the least of their troubles. “Nothing changes from week to week to prepare for a game” Mattison says. “We go in each week with the same mindset. The only thing that changes is the game plan for each team”.
Johnson and Mattison both agreed that the coaching staff prepares the team well by explaining how to stop each team. “We just go out and try to execute”, Mattison adds. “Mentally, we all have our different ways to prepare for a game”.
As of right now, the Bulldogs are tied with Catawba for second place in the SAC behind Newberry. “We try not to look too far into conference standings or ranks” Johnson says. “It does not change how we are going to prepare or play on Saturdays. We know that we will face good teams week by week, so we understand that we have to continue to work as hard as we can to win. I feel great about this week’s game against Carson-Newman”.
As head coach Joe Reich is also making sure his team is motivated. “It is always a challenge to keep it fresh and to keep the guys focused,” Reich mentioned. “We as a staff spend a good deal of time talking about that and how we can change things up every once in awhile. We also put it on the players because great teams know how to finish. Now it is that time to show that. One game at a time and focus on the task at hand” says Reich.