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East Clarendon High School's football team opened Region VII-2A play with a trip to Andrews on Friday, and it got off to a picture-perfect start. The Wolverines used a pair of defensive touchdowns and an all-around exceptional performance by Tyjhai Calvin to come away with a 34-21 win.
The win over Andrews was important for East Clarendon. The Wolverines were coming off a 37-14 loss to Aynor the week before and wanted to set a good tone in the region. Head coach Scott Cook liked seeing how his team stepped up after a loss the week before.
"They really came back from losing to Aynor. They had a rough night out there that night, and the boys responded really well," said Cook. "I can say our mindset changed near the end of last year. I always refer back to the end of last year when the mindset started changing a little bit."
That mindset change was winning a pair of games to finish off the season last year, which included a 34-32 victory over the same Andrews team. This season, they were powered by an excellent performance from Calvin in particular. He returned an interception for a touchdown, threw for a touchdown and caught another.
"Tyjhai is no secret to us. He's been with us since he was in middle school, he was on varsity in the ninth grade, and the big things he's doing now, we were asking him to do in the ninth grade, because he is one of our better athletes in the school," said Cook. "He works hard, gets all his workouts in over the summer, plays basketball. He's just always involved with sports and it's paying off for him this year."
This week the Wolverines face another tough region opponent when they host Mullins at Shad Hall Field. The Auctioneers were second in the region last season and opened region play this year with a 36-6 win over defending champion Carvers Bay. Cook expects a tough matchup on Friday.
"They're good, they're real good. Last year they were up in the front of the region, and this year we thought they could be up at the front of the region, them and Andrews," said the EC head coach. "They're big and physical up front, they've got athletes on the outside and speed. We're going to have to play the best game we can possibly play."
The Mullins offense is led by quarterback Marcus Chandler, who is surrounded by a number of athletic skill players. Demaurii Platt, Alim Legette are among a list of playmakers for the Auctioneers.
"There are athletes all over that field," said Cook on Mullins. "We're going to have to cover the whole field."
Cook knows his running game will be crucial as the Wolverines look to control the clock. The running game should also open things up in the passing game against a Mullins team that loves to play man-to-man defense.
"We're just going to try to continue to do what we do. We're going to run it and mix it up with the pass. We're going to have to block up front and our running backs are going to have to have a good game," said the Wolverines' head coach. "We're going to have to run the ball. We can't just sit back and rely on throwing the ball, but we'll also have to throw it because they play a lot of cover 0 out there, a lot of man coverage."
In Cook's eyes, the biggest key to coming out with a win on Friday is going to be the heart of his Wolverines.
"We're going to have to play a perfect game. We're going to have to play the best game we have all year on Friday night," said Cook. "It's going to come down to our heart. They're more athletic than we are, they're bigger than we are, but it's going to come down to heart, and I won't question our boys' heart."
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