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Wilson Hall and Thomas Sumter Academy enter their annual matchup on the gridiron in a similar place. Both schools feature young rosters, a similar offensive style and one win on the season.
Wilson Hall is coming off a 35-13 loss to Cardinal Newman in which the Barons turned the ball over five times, including three interceptions. Despite the rough loss, Wilson Hall had a bright spot with another spectacular performance from Graham VanPatten. The junior running back had over 200 total yards of offense, including 188 yards and a score on the ground. VanPatten has been superb for the Barons all season, leading the team in both rushing and receiving. On the ground, Van Patten has amassed 780 yards and four scores, while catching 13 passes for 153 yards and a score. He's been aided by Emery Moore, who has rushed for 404 yards and five scores along with a receiving touchdown.
Thomas Sumter, meanwhile, has been powered largely by Ayden Allen. The sophomore running back ran for 139 yards and a touchdown in the Generals' 34-14 loss to The King's Academy last week. Allen is closing in on 1,000 yards for the season and has provided a young team a piece to build around for the next few years.
Both head coaches are worried about one thing coming into their annual rivalry game: improving their own play.
"We're just worried about us and trying to correct what we do," said Wilson Hall head coach Adam Jarecki. "We have to clean up the turnovers. That's kind of cost us the last couple of weeks, turning the ball over, especially late. We have to do a better job at that and taking care of us. That's the main thing."
Thomas Sumter head coach Randy Stogner echoed those sentiments.
"We treat it like every other game. Every game we play on Friday night is something we try to build on. We haven't won a lot of games this year, but any time we get to go out there on Friday nights, that's a chance for us to build some confidence and try to get better," said Stogner. "I guess you want me to talk about it being a rival game, but our rival right now is ourselves, staying healthy and doing what we're supposed to do. We're going to approach it like every other game."
Wilson Hall and Thomas Sumter both run a double Wing-T offense that has a lot of moving parts, so defensively both teams have the same focus: everyone needs to maintain their assignments to try to limit big plays.
"We've got to be disciplined with what they're doing," said Jarecki. "We've got to make sure we read things and stay at home for things. They do a nice job running the double-wing and they run a lot of power sets and some Wing-T looks. We've just got to make sure we do our jobs and be in the right spot."
Stogner points out that there is definitely a benefit to the fact that they run similar offenses because neither defense should be too surprised by the looks they're getting.
"They run something very similar to us, so we like getting to practice against ourselves getting ready for them," said Stogner. "Although, there are some different things he does with the wing-type look. We hope we're going to have us a good ball game and a good crowd and we'll see what happens."
Both teams just see this as another week to get better and, with young teams, build towards their future.
"I think it's a work in progress. We're trying to get better each week, and we're trying to get better each year," said Jarecki. "We're going to keep going and do what we can."
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