The Deerfield-Windsor Knights will face the Pinecrest Paladins on Friday in the semifinals of the AAA GISA playoffs at Webb Memorial Stadium. The defending state champions need one more win to return to the finals on Nov. 27. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
After avenging an early season loss to First Presbyterian last week, the Knights now face an 11-1 team that beat George Walton 17-10 in October. DWS lost to that same George Walton team 16-6 in the season opener on Aug. 21.
While the Paladins might not have the firepower that DWS does, they do have two solid rushers in Michael Cassandra (936 yards on 164 carries with 13 TD) and Jacob Carr (95-438, 7 TD). They also have a quarterback capable of managing the game in Eric Hegemen (58 completions, 764 yards, 10 TD).
Paladin linebacker E.J. Bueltel has been in on 87 tackles and picked off one pass.
Of course, the Knights have a small but tenacious defense anchored by middle line backer Rhett Cooper, who has been involved in 106 tackles. Cooper Shoemaker stepped in at the other linebacker spot last week to fill in for an injured Michael Michas and made several key stops. Davis Moore has been in on 69 tackles and recorded 5.5 sacks. Defensive end Walker Lanier has 48 tackles three fumble recoveries, three sacks and one interception. Gaughf Ivey has 77 tackles and one interception.
While the defensive unit has been impressive all season, they have struggled against big teams that run the ball straight ahead. FPD hung more than 400 yards on the Knights last week, and that early season loss to George Walton was to a similar offense.
Pinecrest will bring that straight ahead type of off tackle brutality to town.
“They are a very big team, and they run the ball extremely tough,” said DWS head coach Allen Lowe of the Knight’s next challenge. “We cannot allow them to hold the ball for long periods of time, and we need to force them into throwing.”
The Paladins will be forced to keep up with the high octane DWS attack. Senior tailback Tony Zenon will once again be the center of the defense’s attention. He has 1,940 yards and 23 touchdowns. In recent weeks, Lowe has used Zenon on play-action and misdirection to open up the field for his other weapons. Quarterback Banks Kinslow has stretched the field by totaling 856 passing yards on 43 completions. Dual threat Justin Webb has 301 rushing yards with four scores, and 351 receiving for five more touchdowns. Fullback Quinton Adkins has 391 rushing yards and seven scores. The Knights will also get wide receiver Reggie Brown and his 372 yards and five touchdowns back in the lineup this week after he served a one game suspension for getting ejected in round one.
If the Knights advance, they will face the winner of the George Walton-Tattnall contest the day after Thanksgiving.
By Mike Flynn