on November 1, 2007 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Warriors not content with simply reaching the postseason

WESTMINSTER — The West-Oak High School football team split its season series with rival Walhalla this season and while the Warriors didn’t get to bring home the Apple Bowl trophy in Week Zero, they did beat the Razorbacks in Week 6. In the end, that game carried a much bigger reward – a playoff berth, as the Warriors finished one game ahead of their rivals in the region standings and took the Skyline AA’s final playoff spot.

West-Oak head coach Lynn Fleming, who has led the Warriors to the playoffs in three of his four years in that position, admitted it was still exciting to get into the postseason.

“It is a good feeling, and the time and the hard work these guys and these coaches have put in – this is where we expected to be at this point,” Fleming said. “We were hoping (for) a little higher seed, but this is the path that’s been laid out for us – so we’re excited about being here.”

With the No. 4 seed from the Skyline, the path the Warriors (4-6) will have to tread starts with the state’s sixth-ranked AA team in Chapman, which finished its Region 2-AA season with a perfect 6-0 mark.

After taking the Panthers (8-2) to the playoffs in his first season at Chapman, head coach Kevin Farmer captured a region title in just his second year on the job.

As it turns out, Fleming – who hasn’t won a region title but, like Farmer, has quickly rejuvenated a once struggling program – goes way back with his Friday night counterpart.

“Actually, I know Kevin pretty well – me and him played baseball together at USC-S,” Fleming said. “And Mike Gentry, one of their coaches, went to Broome with me. So, I know those guys pretty well.”

But knowing the coaches isn’t nearly as important for the task at hand as knowing their players, and Fleming said he has been impressed with what he’s seen so far.

“Watching them on film, they’re physical up front and their skill players are good, and they’ve got a good running back – actually two good running backs – and they do a good job with the personnel they have,” he said.

Though Fleming has led the Warriors to three playoff berths in four years, the school is still in search of its first playoff win.

“It’d be huge,” he said. “That’s one thing going in is we’re not going to play at State Championship (team) at Broome High School. I feel like we’re going and playing a team that we match up with pretty well. And this will be big for our program, obviously we’ve never had a playoff win and definitely an opportunity we’re excited about.”

One reason the Warriors have to be optimistic is they’ve gotten good production out of the passing game, which only adds to the success of their already dynamic running game.

“It’s helping – as well as we’ve been able to run the football the last few weeks, that’s really helped set some things up for us,” he said. “We’re still practicing with some guys that are banged up and hurt, so it’s forced some guys to kind of step up for us – and they have. I mean, they really have.

“Some guys have stepped up that we didn’t really expect to step up, and some of the guys, it’s pretty much what we expected from them all year long. So, it’s been a pleasant surprise.”

While the Warriors’ will be without probably their most dangerous offensive player in Justin Comeaux, who is out for the season, Fleming said he is starting to get some other guys back close to 100 percent.

“I hope so,” he said. “(Matt) El-Bayadi and Dillon (McKinney) both have ankle issues – just a nagging injury. If we could get them back at 100 percent, I’d hope the Abbeville game was a little closer and the Liberty game not so close, but that’s the way it goes… So, like I said, we’ve had some guys really step up for us, and hopefully (they will) until these guys can come back.”

Even after losing their top two backs for a substantial stretch, the Warriors rushing attack barely missed a beat, and Fleming said a big reason for that is the wealth of experience his team has on the offensive line.

“It helps, and we’ve got some young backs that are going to be good,” he said. “We threw them in there a little bit before we wanted to, but they’re going to be good down the road – and it’s been good being able to give them some experience playing at this level.”

And they haven’t just been playing, but playing very well, the Warriors only trailed by two points in the fourth quarter to No. 1 Abbeville last week – though they ultimately lost 34-19 on a pair of late touchdowns.

Fleming said he hopes that his players take a lot of confidence out of their performance in that game.

“It does, I think the kids feel good about what they’re doing right now,” he said. “I think they’re playing pretty fast on defense, and offensively, we’re doing some things here and there. So they feel pretty good about what they’re doing, and I feel like right now – as they should – they feel like they can play with anybody.”