Healthy Gryphons eye first playoff win

Nov. 15, 2013 @ 06:29 AM

During Week 2 of the 2012 prep football season, Thomas Jefferson (8-3) defeated the Andrews Wildcats (4-7), 48-7. In that game, the Gryphons racked up a season high of 494 yards.

Current players Efrim Borders and Tyler Mitchell combined for 122 yards receiving and two touchdowns while the secondary garnered an eye-popping seven interceptions. However, ahead of their meeting in Avondale tonight to kick off the postseason, coach Jerry Cash has a simple message for his team, “That was last year.”

“Andrews is a much better team than we saw a year ago,” Cash said. “The biggest difference is that the sophomores and juniors they had last year are now juniors and seniors. That experience makes a big difference.”

The Wildcats use that experience to run an offense rarely seen on the high school level.

“They like to run the ball, but they do it out of the shotgun,” Cash said. “They run counter traps and off-tackle power plays. They are a power team with a good passing attack to go with it. They are a balanced team that is hard to defend.”

Stats back up Cash’s assessment. The Wildcat offense averages just over 300 yards per game and features 1,100 yard running back Collin Gillespie. Quarterback Jacob Moore balances their attack as he has thrown for 911 yards and eight touchdowns on the season.

“Andrews is not one of those teams where if you stop the pass or the run, you’ve got them beat,” Cash said. “They have a good running back and a good quarterback. If you stop one the other guy can still hurt you. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”

Don’t expect the Gryphons to employee an elaborate defensive scheme to stop the Wildcats, however.

“We are going to play things pretty straight forward,” Cash said. “Their back (Gillespie) is a tough, hardnosed runner, but he’s not a juke-and-jive or a speed guy, kind of like Coty Flynn or Trey McGhee for us. We have to be strong up the middle and make solid tackles.”

When on offense, TJCA will face a conservative Andrews defense.

“On film, they look pretty vanilla,” Cash said. “They like to stop the past first, but that doesn’t mean they will play us that way. I don’t know exactly what we are going to do against them yet. It’s one of those things where we will wait until Friday, see how many people they put in the box, and go from there. If they give us the run we will run. If they give us the pass, we’re going to pass.”

No matter which path the Gryphons take, they hope it will lead to the program’s first postseason victory.

“Last year we were in this same spot and we couldn’t do anything because we were so beat up from the teams we played in conference. We limped into the playoffs,” Cash said. “This year, the second part of the schedule has been much kinder to us and we are fairly healthy. Every starter should be in uniform for the first time since the Rabun Gap game. That makes a big difference.

“Andrews is a lot better than 4-7 because they are in a tough conference, but I feel pretty confident with where we are right now. The team has a good attitude and we are ready to go.”

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy.