Linden wary of Kinston

LINDEN — The Patriots last saw Kinston in round one of the 2010 Class 1A state playoffs. That game ended with a 48-0 Linden victory. However, head coach Andro Williams said this year’s Bulldog team is a little more seasoned that the one it tussled with two years ago.

“They look like they are a little grown up from that team they had then. Several guys that were on that team are on this team,” Williams said.

Conversely, Linden returns only Dewayne Gilmore, Anthony Robinson and Chris Rogers from the lineup that contributed to the 48-point romp some 730 days ago.

Kinston enters that contest at 5-5, having surrendered 213 points on the year while scoring 184. Despite the record, Williams said he expects this year’s Kinston squad to be a formidable opponent.

“They are about like looking in a mirror. They do a lot of the same kind of stuff that we do. They are going to do things right and try to help themselves,” Williams said. “They don’t have a lot of blazing speed. But they know the best thing they can do is line up and run the football right at you. They try to outfox you and play a numbers game offensively.”

Linden enters the contest fresh off its only loss of the season, a 33-13 setback it suffered to Class 2A playoff team Southern Choctaw last Thursday. In that contest, the Patriots struggled to take care of the ball; something Williams said his team cannot afford to do from this point forward.

“We’ve got to play sound on both sides of the ball. Where we’ve got to help ourselves is the turnover battle. We can’t put the ball on the ground,” Williams said. “We know that we can’t put the ball on the ground. We pretty much hurt ourselves. It came down to the turnover margin and when you’re playing a good team, you can’t do that.”

Citing the Southern Choctaw defeat, Williams pointed out that he does not buy into the philosophy that there is such a thing as a good loss but that his team would still use the experience as a learning tool.

“Some people say it is the best thing that could happen to you. I don’t agree. I believe the best thing that could happen to us was to win. But I believe in getting something out of every situation,” Williams said before analyzing his team’s performance in the game. “I thought we were in position defensively. As good as it looked and as good as we played defensively, we still had some plays where we hurt ourselves defensively. There were different things here and there that we had going that we didn’t capitalize on.”

As it prepares for its 20th playoff game in six seasons under Williams, Linden finds itself in familiar territory – under the lights on a November Friday night. Williams said he expects his team will ratchet up the intensity accordingly.

“Your intensity turns up and you understand that there are 32 teams playing and if you lose you don’t play anymore,” Williams said. “We don’t fool ourselves on that. We’re just going to take them one at a time and try to enjoy them and be committed.”