Class 5A blog: The skinny about state finalists from behind enemy lines

High school football

Credit: For the AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
High school football

Credit: For the AJC

Warner Robins will try to defend its Class 5A championship against Calhoun on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Georgia State’s Center Parc Stadium.

Cartersville coach Conor Foster played both teams during the season. His Purple Hurricanes defeated Calhoun 21-14 in the final week of the regular season to win the Region 8 title. They were beaten 24-14 by Warner Robins in the second round of the playoffs in a rematch of the 2020 state championship game.

Foster shared his unique insights about both teams. Here are some of his observations about this week’s state championship contestants.

Stopping the Warner Robins offense, which averages 49 points: “Part of the thing that makes them so tough offensively is they throw so many different looks and mix tempos. I thought we did a much better job handling it this year. You’ve got to be able to adjust to their tempo, but you’ve got to give them different looks. Their offensive coordinator does a tremendous job of making in-game adjustments. Week-to-week they continue to pour on the points throughout the game. What you see from them early is their foundation, but as the game goes on, you’re going to get all the wrinkles, once they see how you adjusted.”

About the depth of talent Warner Robins has on offense: “They’ve got a stable of running backs and the quarterback is a tremendous passer. They’ve got several good wide receivers, but what really makes them go are those big tight ends (Vic Burley, Nathaniel Sanford). They have so many big bodies, but when those two come in they’re able to put a lot of numbers in the box. Bringing those big bodies in forces you to make a decision. You might want to match their numbers, which means one-on-one on the perimeter with guys who are very talented, or am I going to try to continue to take away the perimeter and, in that case, make myself weaker in the back.”

What is special about the Warner Robins defense? “They’re just so sound. It’s not overly complicated – and I mean that as a compliment. They don’t slow their kids down … they know what they’re doing and they execute and they play really fast. They play hard. They generate a lot of pressure without having to bring a lot of extra bodies. I think you’ve got to keep them on their toes … throw different looks at them, mix it up … because you can’t let them get comfortable.”

What makes the Calhoun offense tick? “They give you a lot of looks. They’re similar to Warner Robins because they’ve got some dynamic receivers and some really big, athletic bodies out there. They’re able to take advantage of one-on-one matchups. It’s eerily similar as far as their philosophy goes. They want to load up the box and run then ball, then take shots with one-on-one matchups and they’ve got guys who can do that.”

What is the key for the Calhoun defense? “They’ve got long, athletic corners, but their safeties make them go. (Gage Leonard) makes every call on the back end and he’s really physical. He’s a really good football player. You’ll see (Christopher Lewis) running all over the place and he’s their emotional leader and he’s just a really good football player.”

What about the coaching staffs for both teams? “I’ve had the opportunity to coach against both coaching staffs the last couple of years and have tremendous respect for both of them and what they’re able to do.”

What’s the key to victory? “It’ll be interesting to see how it goes as far as in-game adjustments, because they’re so similar in their philosophies … maybe who’s willing to get outside of their comfort zone a little bit to throw some different wrinkles and break it up a bit. It’ll be interesting … I just wish we were playing in it instead of watching.”