4 Questions with Savannah Christian head coach Baker Woodward

Credit: For the AJC

Credit: For the AJC

Today’s interviewee is Savannah Christian coach Baker Woodward, whose team defeated No. 5 Peach County 23-7 in the Class 3A second round. Savannah Christian finished 5-6 last season in Class A and has been unranked this season despite an 11-1 record. Peach County was the first top-10 opponent outside of Class A that the Raiders have ever beaten. Woodward has been Savannah Christian’s coach for five seasons. His record is 45-15 with two region titles.

1. What did you do well Friday that allowed your team to come out on top? “We knew Peach County had a high-powered offense with a really good running back, so we knew we would have to stop their running game and force them to pass. Coach Robert Walsh, our defensive coordinator, along with our defensive staff [Keith Brooking and Ray Orio] came up with a great plan on defense, and our defense executed very well. One of the key players on defense was Kenry Wall with several tackles, a pass breakup and a key interception. Also, our special teams coordinator, William Bell, had been telling the guys all week that we would have to have a big play on special teams, and that was exactly what happened at the beginning of the second half when Jamari McIvory ran back the kickoff for a 90-yard touchdown. Lastly, we wanted to keep Peach County’s offense off the field by controlling the ball on offense. We put the game in our offensive line’s hands [Jep Hudspeth, Cole Burnsed, Jackson Mercer, Noah Lewis, Tyson Gross and Akeem Lane] along with running back Zo Smalls. We also had key receptions from David Bucey and Logan Brooking from our senior quarterback Paulus Zittrauer. Our offense racked up around 350 yards and zero turnovers.”

2. You were 5-6 last year in Class A. You’re in the quarterfinals in Class 3A. How did your team go from that to this? “Last year we were a young team with only six seniors, and many of the games we lost were by one score or less. Our opponents were a little more experienced than us, and it showed in the close games. We were very close to being an eight- or nine-win team, but to be honest I believe we lost a little accountability. From a coaching standpoint and a player leadership standpoint, we did not hold our players as accountable as we should’ve, and it showed by not winning the close games that we should have won. This year we have focused on being a family by holding each other accountable. We have used the verse Proverbs 17:17: ‘A friend loves at all times, but a brother is born for adversity.’ Our coaches have always tried their best to hold players accountable, but the really great teams have players holding each other accountable. That is what this Raider Family is doing. We are holding everyone accountable and demanding their absolute best. They are playing for one another, and they want to keep playing for one another. I truly believe this is the biggest reason for our success.”

3. How would you describe your team to those who haven’t seen you play? “I hope when people see our team, they see a team that attacks with purpose. It comes from Colossians 3:23: ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord and not human masters.’ We break it down on ‘attack’ every day, and we want to be deliberate and intentional about what we do. I believe our coaches and players focus on doing everything in their power to do their very best, and that is all we can ask for. Lastly, we hope that attacking with purpose shows not only in the way we play football but also when our boys graduate, that they take that philosophy with them not just for the four years that they are here, not just for the next 40, but for eternity.”

4. Your next opponent is Sandy Creek. Have you looked at them enough to know what you’re up against? “I didn’t have to look at the film long to see that we will be up against a huge challenge in Sandy Creek. They will be by far the best team we have played all season. They are fast and physical on defense running multiple fronts and various coverages. Their offense is very explosive, and as the young kids say, their offense is a problem especially their quarterback. We will have to play our best game in order to advance to the final four.”

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