Westbrook hosts Glencoe in season opener


Quarterback Jonathan Ford leads Westbrook against Glencoe in the season opener for both team Friday night. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times | File)


 

By J.J. Hicks Sports Writer

The marquee high school football matchup in Etowah County on Friday night takes place in Rainbow City where the Glencoe Yellow Jackets and Westbrook Warriors open their seasons. 

Both teams are expected to be playoff contenders, and while this matchup at the Warriors’ Jack Osborn Field will not have any bearing on each teams’ respective region standings, it nevertheless is an opportunity to get the season kicked off with a win while identifying a team’s strengths and weaknesses.

With the Warriors missing the postseason last year, a fast start could be a big boon to a veteran squad that will need all the assistance it can get once it begins to navigate the difficult Class 2A, Region 7 schedule.

“If the players take it one game at a time, it can be (a boost),” Westbrook coach Tony Osborn said. “Each week is a different challenge, but if you win the first game, it can’t hurt your confidence.”

Glencoe, meanwhile, is on a run of three consecutive playoff berths, all of which saw the Yellow Jackets reach the second round.

“With a young team, you’re looking for improvement from week to week,” Glencoe coach Lee Ozmint said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and sometimes a team doesn’t even closely resemble the team it starts off as at the beginning of the season. 

“We’re a young team. We’re playing young guys at key positions. You want your team to gain confidence in the early season, but we’re looking to improve from last week to this week.”

A 2A team opening with a difficult 3A opponent might not necessarily be seen as a good strategy to some. However, when the level of difficulty to be encountered in Region 7 is considered, the Warriors could be merely just warming themselves up for the kind of opponents they will see all season long.

“We probably won’t have too many teams as big (as Glencoe)”, Osborn said. “Defensively, I think they’re similar to Fyffe in that they can run to the ball and are primarily a run-stopping team, as I think most great defenses are. They have linebackers who play downhill and get to the ball. They have big defensive tackles. Their secondary is tough. They are tough defensively.”

As for Glencoe, the Yellow Jackets lost several key players, including an All-State performer in linebacker Daniel Warren. However, the Yellow Jackets appear to be rolling out their next defensive star in defensive end Blake Christian, who now becomes the focus of opposing offenses.

Considering the quality and productivity of the offenses the Warriors churn out yearly, the Glencoe D — among one of the best in the county on a yearly basis — will need to be in midseason form on opening night.

“(Westbrook’s) Jonathan Ford is one of the better quarterbacks I’ve seen,” Ozmint said. “He’s a threat to run or throw. They have athletes from one side of the field to the other, like Jake Kilgo and Jordan McCartney at running back. I’m impressed with how strong they are up front. You can’t key on one guy because Ford has such good vision he can see all over the field.”

Over the last two seasons, the Yellow Jackets have lost their playoff contests by a combined four points. Ozmint feels like his team needs to focus on the present, not the past.

“Our players need to understand that what we did last year doesn’t make a hill of beans to what we do this year,” he explained. “We have to have a short memory on the good things and the bad things. All that matters is what you’re gonna do today. We have matchup problems with Westbrook. With our young team, I think it will be a huge step for us if we can compete with them.”

Meanwhile, missing the playoffs entirely will no doubt make a team eager to return, especially when that team is used to being there every season.

“We don’t like not being in the playoffs,” Osborn said. “It was a disappointment. Hopefully the guys who are coming back are more determined to do what we need to do to get there this year.”