West Lincoln welcomes Bay Springs into playoffs — Bears hope ‘bloody nose’ from Loyd Star will prepare them for the physical attack of Bulldogs

Published 10:06 pm Thursday, November 2, 2017

It was a close thing.

The West Lincoln Bears defeated the Loyd Star Hornets last week with some last-minute heroics, but they took a beating to get the job done. The Bears gave up 251 rushing yards at 6.8 yards per carry and had to throw the whole defense at the Hornets just for room to breathe.

It was a hard lesson, and one that will need to be remembered tonight as the Bears (5-5, 3-1) host their first-ever home playoff game against the Bay Springs Bulldogs (6-5, 2-2) and their Wing-T offense.

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“Loyd Star has been the most physical team we’ve played — they bloodied our nose a little bit and, hopefully, that got us ready to take those kind of hard hits from Bay Springs,” said West Lincoln coach B.J. Smithart.

The Wing-T offense was developed at the University of Delaware by coach David M. Nelson in the 1950s and has withstood generations of testing to remain a popular offense at the high school and collegiate levels of football (Georgia Tech’s option offense runs from the similar “flexbone”). It utilizes several running backs and constant motion to keep a defense unbalanced.

Bay Springs has used it very, very well. The Dogs have almost 2,600 rushing yards on the season — junior running back Anson Windham has amassed 1,250 rushing yards this year and is moving along at an impressive 6.8 yards per carry, and relief man Jamarious Hosey, another junior, has 844 yards at 6.1 yard per carry. They’ve combined for 33 touchdowns.

“We’re going to have to get in there and mix it up with them and make sure we give as much as we take,” Smithart said. “We have to get tough in the trenches to win this game.”

West Lincoln will, of course, unleash its big three — junior quarterback Matthew Case and seniors Chase Owen and Gabe Nations. But here in the postseason, with this level of competition, Smithart is counting on a team effort, and several players are working hard toward the Bears’ success without grabbing much attention.

Seniors Brendan Melton and Logan Lea are playing on the interior defensive line and will be responsible for shutting off the hard inside jabs the Wing-T can generate. They’ve combined for almost 40 tackles and a sack this season. Sophomore defensive end Grant Jackson has ran up 32 tackles and has really stepped up late in the season, Smithart said.

The Bears have strength in the linebacking corps as well. Senior outside linebacker Julian Anderson has recorded 59 tackles and an interception in 2017, while junior middle linebacker Cam Buckles has 79 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. With Bay Springs’ Wing-T putting speedy runners in motion constantly, Anderson and Buckles will have to play fiercely, and with discipline.

“All these guys have chipped in and really toted the load for us,” Smithart said. “They’re probably the most banged up just because of the positions they play, but they’re going to have to suck it up and get after it Friday. Our offensive and defensive lines will have to win their individual battles if we’re going to win this game.”

West Lincoln will host Bay Springs at 7 p.m. tonight. The winner of the game will face the winner of Pisgah vs. Richton in the second round of the 2A playoffs.