4 Questions with Dutchtown head coach Niketa Battle

Today’s interviewee is Dutchtown coach Niketa Battle, whose team defeated Mays 40-34 in overtime in the Class 5A quarterfinals last week. The victory, won with the aid of a goal-line stand from the 1-yard line in overtime, put Dutchtown in the semifinals for the first time in the Henry County school’s 19-season history. Battle, whom Dutchtown hired this year, was facing his former team, which he led for six seasons.

1. What does making the semifinals mean for Dutchtown? “This is a very large accomplishment for the program. Getting to the quarterfinals and coming up short in previous seasons has been very discouraging for the football program. Just to get over that hump was very rewarding for the kids.” [Dutchtown had been 0-3 in previous quarterfinal games, with two of those losses coming when currant Alabama All-American Will Anderson was a Dutchtown all-state player.]

2. Mays had first-and-goal from the 1-yard line in overtime and you kept them out. What happened on each play of the goal-line stand? “The first play Mays lined up in double wing right and attempted to run stretch with Triston Morgan. We made penetration, and our linebackers Amarion Yarbough and D.J. Johnson stuffed the play in the backfield. Second down they lined up in the same formation to run a quarterback counter to the left with Saulamon Evans, and we did a great job of stringing the play out of bounds for a loss. Third down they ran toss right to outflank the defense with Triston Morgan. We made penetration, and D.J. Johnson stuffed it in the backfield. Fourth down they wanted to run a mesh concept with Jarquarian Wiggles and Clayton Coppage, and our linebackers did an excellent job running with their guys, and the backside cornerback Tishaun Brown did an excellent job of sinking into the throwing lane for the interception. That was big time.”

3. What was it like playing your former team? Did you speak with some of your players after the game? “It was a game. I didn’t know how I would feel until kickoff. Then the competitive coaching fell into place. After the game was over, I did have an opportunity to speak to some former coaches. However, I did not have an opportunity to speak to the former players. I have much respect for the fight in those players. They played a hard-fought game.”

4. You’re one of a handful of semifinal teams that were unranked in preseason. When did you feel you had a chance to get this far? “After the Warner Robins game, we knew that was an indication that we could play with the best in 5A competition. If we continued to play like that week to week the success would follow.” [Dutchtown was GHSF Daily’s Team of the Week after the Warner Robins victory Sept. 16. That dropped Warner Robins to 1-3, but the Demons have won eight straight games and joined Dutchtown in the semifinals.]

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