Instead, the Bulldogs are enjoying the team’s first state playoff appearance since 2003 and preparing to face two-time defending state champion Sandy Creek.
“It’s really exciting,” Butler coach Ashley Harden said. “The atmosphere here with the players is electric.”
Though the Bulldogs are in the state playoffs after just missing a chance to play for a spot in 2010, they’re tasked with ending the Fighting Patriots’ 39-game winning streak that stretches to Sept. 4, 2009. This season, Sandy Creek is averaging 35.8 points per game and is giving up only 7.5 points per game thanks to lineman Quinteze Williams, who has committed to Florida.
Outsiders might not expect Butler to win – or even stay close for the entire game – but Harden sees Friday’s game as an opportunity. He said, at this point in the season, all the remaining teams are 0-0, fighting to finish 5-0 and take home a state title.
Though Sandy Creek’s run shows the challenge will be great, Harden knows his team has already played some powerful teams this season, such as Burke County. Harden said Sandy Creek is a fast team, but he added there might not be a squad faster than Burke County.
Even so, Harden said speed and depth will be an issue. To counter the Fighting Patriots’ speed, the Bulldogs will use some misdirection, but another solution is to make the necessary blocks.
As for depth, it will be tested with both Jeff Menefee and Tayari Thompson dealing with an ankle injury and quarterback Clayton Johnson still healing from a shoulder injury. Menefee joined with Yashem Coleman and Christan Garnett to help Butler rush for 350 yards in the 34-14 win against Richmond Academy that earned them the No. 4 seed.
But Harden isn’t making excuses, as he remarked every team playing is dealing with injuries.
And as the offense tries to continue to improve with its red zone efficiency – Harden said a missed block led to the Bulldogs’ lone empty showing against the Musketeers – the defense has remained formidable.
Butler lineman Greshawn James said the defensive strength has been because of speed and teamwork, a combination the Bulldogs will need if they are going to challenge Sandy Creek.
“We know they’re 10-0 and have a lot of Division-I prospects,” James said. “Everyone is saying they’re good, but they can be beat. We just have to execute.”