By Rory Sharrock
If he had it his way, Mt. Zion head coach Jarrett Laws would prefer to have his squad live a life of anonymity.
However, after the Bulldogs (7-4, 5-3 Region 4-AAAA) posted their best record since 2004, with signature wins over former region bully Griffin and a thrashing of previously unbeaten Evans in last week's playoff game, the name Mt. Zion is no longer an insignificant blip on the football radar.
For this very reason, when the Bulldogs (7-4, 5-3 Region 4-AAAA) step on the field against the Ware County Gators (6-5, 4-2 Region 2-AAAA) on Friday night in Waycross, there won't be any surprises as to who this team is from those on the sidelines and in the stands.
Mt. Zion relied on it's overall speed and effective play calling in its 36-10 victory versus Evans and its going to take a similar approach to advance to the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
Ware County knocked off Thomas County Central 21-3 in last week's opening round playoff match for its third win in a row. The Gators' defense has been the difference during this run as they've allowed only three points in their last eight quarters.
"They flow fast to the ball defensively. They don't make mental mistakes. They're not going to give you the game, you're going to have to take it from them," said Laws.
This past season, Mt. Zion often turned the schedule into a roller coaster. The Bulldogs would look sharp as a tack one week, then play woeful the next with a head-sratching performance like in their 27-26 loss at a sub .500 Ola club to close their regular season.
With their dominating display against Evans, it would appear that if things stay true to form, the Bulldogs are primed for a letdown. However, the team is well aware of its previous bipolar mood swings and plans to remain on an even keel when they buckle their chinstraps Friday night.
"Those guys were ready to get on the bus and come home immediately after the game (at Evans) was over with. They were asking me who do we have next and what's the game plan. They know we're at the last second. Especially for the seniors, they know this is it and there is no tomorrow," said Laws.
Mt. Zion's game plan against Ware County will focus on mixing up various looks from the spread offense. The Bulldogs will run straight up the gut with a power running game as well as pull a few tricks out their bag with reverses and option pass plays.
On the defensive side of the ball, the coaches are stressing to their players the importance of being disciplined and not over pursuing, which can result in getting beat long by Ware County's deep threat receiving core.
"It's win or go home. You have to bring your A-game every week," said senior safety Rummel Victor. "Everything has to be intense. We have to go hard in practice and hard on Friday night.
We have to read our keys. They run a double tight shotgun with a big play called 'Dart'. It's a major play they run, so we have to be ready."
On Friday morning, Mt. Zion will load charter buses for its four-hour odyssey to rural South Georgia at 10 a.m.
The team plans to review film on the trip down and then again after eating lunch. Kick off is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Ware County High School.