Round Seven: Dillon vs. Timberland for the LS title
Pick a heavyweight title fight.
Any of the Ali – Frazier fights.
Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran in any weight class.
Hearns and Hagler.
It’s not a fight, it’s war.
Call this one Dillon vs. Timberland VII.
Call it war.
These two teams have played each other six straight years, and five of those were for the Lower State Championship in Class AA.
One team defines the other, and for Timberland, a season isn’t considered a success unless the words “Beat Dillon,” rings true.
“Six weeks ago I said we didn’t deserve to be in the same conversation with Dillon,” said Wolves Coach Art Craig. “But over the past month we’ve become a changed team. We’ve matured. We’ve come a long way and we’ve grown up a lot. We’re proud to be here. Against Dillon, we’re going to throw everything we’ve got at them and see what happens.”
Craig said there is something that happens to his team once the playoffs start.
“We get hungry. We play so much harder now than we did. While we take it one week and one game at a time, come playoff time, we know they’re out there.”
These Wolves have improved since their six-turnover 31-13 loss to Berkeley on Sept. 27. They’re not the same team that lost to Hanahan either. It’s Thanksgiving and Timberland is still one of the last teams standing.
And beating Dillon is all that’s standing in the way of a Timberland trip to Columbia.
“One paper they are the better team, but we’ve grown up a lot over the past six weeks,” Craig said, his Wolves 7-0 since the loss to Berkeley. “The kids have done a really good job of accepting their coaching and playing within the system.”
Craig said his team found its direction.
“We had to decide from an offensive standpoint where we’re going to go. We went back to the option game and that caused us to be physical again. It brought back the brutality that is Timberland football. You can see it each week, we were getting better and better.”
In the 34-12 win over Loris, Timberland jumped out to a quick lead, but had to regroup and hold on after the Lions began clawing their way back in the third quarter. Craig said the adversity was good for his team. They needed some.
“Even though we jumped up big, we dug in,” he said. “We had some adversity and they scored a couple and the kids decided that was it and they overcame that adversity. While you never want to see your team go through adversity like that, I think this was good for our team.”
Adversity in one form or another has lingered around this team all season with injuries and changes in the Wolves’ game plan.
“We’ve only the had the same starting lineup one or two games the whole year,” Craig said. “We’ve had to plug in so many kids in so many spots we were able to teach a lot of different kids a lot of different things and that’s really helped us as we got into the playoffs.
The Wolves have a three-headed scoring beast behind quarterback Matt Gabel in Bernard Harmon, Ezekiel Padgett and Daniel Robinson.
“The thing I liked about the Loris game is we had three different guys score touchdowns,” Craig said. “V.A. Harmon, Daniel Robinson and Ezekiel Padgett all scored touchdowns. While V.A. is the guy everybody’s going to key on, both Robinson and Padgett gained more yards than he did. Throw in Shamel Williams and Matt Gabel and we have five guys capable of scoring at any time.”
Against Dillon, the Wolves don’t have to be the best team of 2013, or the best team to run through the Class AA Div. I playoff bracket.
They only have to be the best team come Friday night for three hours, 48 minutes by the scoreboard clock, the Wolves’ rallying cry during their 2011 state championship run.
“We’re going to have to play well, obviously,” Craig said. “We’re going to have to understand and be patient. There’s not going to be many 40-to-50 yard runs against Dillon. The 3-to-5 yard runs is what we’re going to have to live with and use to put together our scoring drives. If we can do that and be patient, we stand a good chance of coming out on top.
“All we have to do is be the best team on Nov. 29 from 7:30 to 10. We’re going to play our game, Old School Timberland football. We can’t get caught up in all the hoopla and we can’t let them knock us around all night. If we’re able to stick around and not get knocked out early, and we’re able to pick up a little confidence, I like our chances.”
Kickoff at Dillon on Friday is at 7:30 p.m. and for those keeping score at home, the Class AA, Div. I State Championship Game kicks off at Benedict College in Columbia on Dec. 7 at 8:30 p.m.