White Plains finished the 2012 season 5-5, including a 38-7 win against Ohatchee in the season opener. The Indians finished 2-8. Yet, with the transition into 2013 is fully here, the two Calhoun County rivals are on the rise and looking for something better. The Wildcats have their continuing motto, “Build It,” and Ohatchee’s new motto, “Expect to Win,” is buzzing around the locker room.
Ohatchee leads the series 21-6, although White Plains has won the last four.
Even so, White Plains coach Heath Harmon knows the first game doesn’t impact the season substantially, despite the hype in both communities.
“This is one of those deals where you want to play well, but teams are different. I tell my kids all the time that you preach nothing except starting fast, but you count them up at the end,” Harmon said. “I hear people a lot of times talk about games being winnable or not and winning a certain number of games, but I’ve never done that. You just don’t know how teams will be year-to-year.
“We want to play well and start strong, but I have a saying, ‘We’re not going to throw the baby out with the bath water.’ We have a plan and we’re going to do what we do and keep getting better. If you truly want to build something you have to stick it to, and we’re sticking to it. This is one heck of a Week 1 game.”
The natural will to win from each team will make the Creek Bank a battle field Friday night. However, with it being a season-opening game, Ohatchee coach Nathan Wehunt said preparation comes with a slight twist.
“We really haven’t watched any film on those guys because coming into the first week you’re kind of blind to all that because there’s not really anything to go off of except for when we played them last year. We’re just kind of going off of that,” he said.
Despite uncertainties in several aspects of the game, both teams’ running backs have already made names for themselves. Johnny Bynum returns as White Plains’ leading workhorse and Harmon said the Wildcats have “an awful lot of respect” for Ohatchee tailback Tristan Allen, who they’ve faced before.
Injuries hit important players for both teams in the past week. White Plains center Calvin Thornburg went down with a knee injury against Woodland in the Wildcats' jamboree, causing multiple shifts on the offensive line. And earlier last week, Ohatchee linebacker/fullback Coleman McCombs broke his leg during practice.
“He’s fine, he’s fine,” Wehunt said. “I talk to him or his mom and dad daily, but we don’t know a recovery time. He’s in high spirits about coming back and he’s going to be with us whether he’s playing or not. He’s going to be a coach on the field while he’s still healing.”
Harmon wasn’t shy about the challenge Ohatchee brings. The White Plains coach named Allen, Quinn Williams, Jaylon Spinks and the entire line as players who are tough to compete against. He added that playing the Indians are on the road make things that much harder.
But just as Harmon mentioned, Wehunt noted the season opener doesn’t make or break the season.
“What I told my kids leading up to this week is everybody wants to win Week 1 because it kind of sets the tone for the season,” he said. “Naturally, it’s big in that sense and that’s why our kids and community are excited. Everybody is excited about it. Everyone is excited and has been asking about it. It’s here.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.