11/10/10 — Eagles face another challenging mission

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Eagles face another challenging mission

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 10, 2010 1:47 PM

Each week, the Rosewood High football coaches inform their team of the challenge that lies ahead on Friday night.

The Eagles face their biggest test of the season this week.

They're hosting an opening-round contest in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A playoffs for the first time since 2004, but they haven't won a postseason game since 2003.

Rosewood (4-7 overall) attempts to snap its seven-game playoff skid when South Davidson (3-8) pays a visit in their Midwest Region clash. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Branch Pope Field.

"The kids are excited about having a home playoff game," said Eagles head coach Robert Britt. "The atmosphere around here is good and we're playing our best football at the right time of the year. Our players and community are hungry for a playoff win."

The Eagles won two of their final three regular-season games and enter the playoffs with confidence. The Wildcats, of the Yadkin Valley Conference, are similar to Britt's team -- especially on the offensive side of the ball.

Each squad prefers to employ a grinding, ball-control offense that eats precious minutes off the clock. Rosewood forced Princeton to abandon its running attack last week, and Britt hopes the Eagles can duplicate the feat this week.

"They have a split-back offense where they run a lot of dives, quick pitches and counters," said Britt. "They throw out of it and try to attack all areas of the field. We need to make this team one-dimensional ... make them throw it more than they want to, and I think we can be successful.

"I think it's going to be a good football game for us."

Rosewood welcomed linebacker Greg Cavanaugh to the defense last week. Logan Waters continues to nurse an injury he suffered three weeks ago at Spring Creek. His playing status is uncertain, but he's shown more agility in practice this week.

Offensively, the Eagles will face a defense that, according to Britt, appears well-coached on their responsibilities. The Wildcats surrender 33.6 points a game, but four contests have been decided by a touchdown or less. South Davidson is 2-2 in those games.

Waters' absence on offense has led to the emergence of Shane Whitley, who has become a strong complement to backfield mates Jyhkia Applewhite and blocking back Jamie Wooten. Whitley forces opposing defenses to commit inside a little longer and check the fullback, which enables the Eagles to find significant real estate on the perimeter.

Applewhite causes conflict outside when Wooten is able to sustain a block and create running room down the sideline.

"We have to have another game where we don't have any turnovers and we can establish the run," said Britt. "I don't think either team has a lot of big-play potential, but both teams are capable of grinding it out and keeping it away from the other team."

A playoff victory would give Rosewood its first win five-win season since finishing 6-6 in 2006. It would be the Eagles' 15th postseason triumph in program history since 1973.

"(A win) would validate the effort they've put in since I've been here," said Britt. "We've put an emphasis on working 365 days to become a better athlete ... bigger, stronger, faster. The kids know this is the best chance we've had in a long time to win a playoff game."