BROOKLAND — A classification change isn’t keeping Brookland and Westside apart.
Conference rivals in every other sport, the Bearcats and Warriors will meet as non-conference foes on the football field Friday night at Brookland’s Jordan’s Stadium.
Brookland was bumped up to Class 5A football for the 2020-22 classification cycle, while its other sports continue to compete in Class 4A. Westside is in Class 4A in all sports.
“Just the proximity we have with them, our guys know their guys,” Westside football coach Bobby Engle said. “It’s competitive all the way around whether we’re playing them in basketball, football or any other sport.”
The teams have met every season since Brookland started varsity football in 2012. Westside holds an 8-0 series lead, but the Warriors had to score on the final play last year for a 27-26 victory on their way to the 4A-3 championship.
First-year Brookland coach Eric Munoz said he told his players to block out what happened in last season’s meeting.
“Here’s what I told them – forget what’s happened in the past,” Munoz said. “It’s what you’re doing today, tomorrow and the next day in preparing for Westside.”
The Bearcats (1-0) beat Gosnell for the first time in their season opener, rallying for a 36-32 victory after trailing 16-6 at halftime.
Sophomore running back Joseph Wright keyed Brookland’s rally with 124 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries. Munoz was proud of Wright’s response after he carried the football once in the first half.
“This is one thing I pointed out to the team,” Munoz said. “I said, ‘Guys, Joseph ran the ball one time in the first half. He could have put his head down and been upset that he didn’t get to run the ball any more, but what did he do? He kept cheering on his team and in the second half, he was ready to go.’”
Engle said the Warriors (0-1) have to tackle better than they did last week and can’t get caught up in the Bearcats’ backfield motion.
“We just have to read our keys and not get caught up with all the motion in the backfield and chasing stuff that’s not there,” Engle said. “We have to be more physical up front than what we were last week and we have to wrap up. They’ve got a pretty good running back, just like Greene County Tech has.”
Westside opened the season with a 20-0 loss at GCT. While the Warriors had no turnovers, Engle said they struggled because of mental mistakes.
“I thought we were pretty sloppy. I didn’t really expect us to go in there and play perfect, but it looked like we hadn’t played in a while, that’s for sure,” Engle said. “We didn’t stay on our blocks the amount of time we needed to and we had some young guys make some mistakes up front.”
Senior running back Tyler Ray finished with 81 yards rushing on 18 carries to lead the Warriors.
“They run the football and they’ll cause some issues there,” Munoz said. “Defensively they like to crowd the box and we’re going to have to throw the football if we can, and we’re still going to have to get the running game going and figure out a way of doing that against the type of box they’re going to give us.”