DUNWOODY, Ga. — Following Dunwoody’s 45-17 pounding by St. Pius in last year’s season opener – a game that wasn’t even that close - the question being asked was, “how bad is this Wildcats’ team?”
After this past Friday night’s nail-biting 10-8 loss to the Golden Lions in Dunwoody’s season opener, the question now being asked is, “how good can this year’s team be?”
Head coach Mike Nash’s fired-up squad refused to back down to the perennial playoff power before approximately 5,000 at North DeKalb Stadium, and almost pulled off the Wildcats’ biggest upset in recent memory.
“Very proud of our kids,” Nash said. “They played a great opponent. St Pius is the standard that we want to be. Our boys stood toe-to-toe with them and played well enough to win the ballgame. We deserved to come away with a victory. That is what makes this game so great. In life, you don’t get everything you deserve.”
”I’m not sure how much more talented we are than teams in the past, but we are the most close-knit team I have been a part of in my four years,” senior running back Jaxon Warshaw said. “Everyone loves everyone from the seniors to the freshman. I think with how we work every day at practice and lifting, we have a chance to be great.”
Trailing 7-0 in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats put together their most impressive drive of the game, highlighted by a perfectly executed hook-and-lateral with wide receiver Walt Anders hitting a streaking David Julian on a pitch that converted a third down and long to a first-and-goal at the St. Pius five-yard line. On the next play, quarterback Davis LeDoyen connected with Tyler Eith on a touchdown pass to draw the Wildcats within a point with just over six minutes to play.
Rather than play for the tie, Nash rolled on a two-point conversion try, with Warshaw hitting a wide open Eith in the end zone to give Dunwoody an 8-7 lead.
“There was never a question (about going for two),” Nash said. “I’m getting a lot of credit for that decision, but everyone on our team, coaches and players, would have done the same thing. We were playing a team that routed us last year and are No. 8 in the state. We didn’t work all summer to tie them. We worked to come away with the win. I believe in our kids and feel like it is my job to put them in a position to win.”
“At halftime Coach Nash told me that if we score, we were going to go for the lead,” Warshaw said. “We practice it every day so we were prepared for it. With a receiver like Tyler, I was very confident that he was going to get open and I just had to give him a chance with a good ball.”
Eith finished the game with 13 catches for 104 yards. LeDoyen was 28-of-38 for 215 yards and one interception to go with his one touchdown pass.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they left too much time on the clock for St. Pius’ lethal triple-option attack. The Golden Lions drove to the Wildcats 17-yard line, and with 1:16 to play, Eli Marshbank nailed a 34-yard field goal to give St. Pius to a two-point lead and eventual win. Despite the loss, the Wildcats are encouraged.
“After competing like we did against a team like Pius, I feel like this year can be very special,” Warshaw said.
His coach took a wait-and-see attitude.
“That question still has to be answered,” Nash said. “We haven’t gotten into region play yet. We will see when we get there how good we are.”
The Wildcats will get an acid test this Friday night at North DeKalb Stadium when they host rival Chamblee in a non-region game.
“Chamblee has got a new coaching staff over there and they are doing a fantastic job,” Nash said. “They have those kids believing in themselves. It will be a tough game. They will be well coached. We will have our work cut out for us but I believe in our kids. I don’t think anyone has a better group than we do.”