Prep Football: Mulberry Looking to Keep Win Streak Going
Fri. October 05, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | By Solange Reyner
Mulberry and quarterback Austin Strickland have their work cut out for them against Lake Wales tonight. (Photo by PAUL CRATE | LEDGER MEDIA GROUP)
By SOLANGE REYNER
LAKELAND | Mulberry has a three-game win streak heading into tonight's big Class 5A-9 district match-up against Lake Wales, and some Lake Wales players are seeing a difference in the Panthers this year.
"On film it seems like they don't give up on any play," Highlanders quarterback Railond Garrett said.
"This team looks different, looks like they have more confidence."
That's true, said some Mulberry players, but they know that confidence can sometimes be a killer. So they have a motto they've been sticking to, and they'll carry that into today's game in hopes that the outcome against the Highlanders, who won the district last year, will be very different from last season.
"Walk quietly and carry a big stick," sophomore right tackle Kensey Davis said. "No talk, but play hard. It's been our motto for a while."
Added junior left guard Dwyane Williams: "I would say we have way more confidence than we did last year but we just have to keep our head straight. We're still in a little bit of a building thing but we're starting to get more fans and more people supporting us and behind us. Right now we're keeping things going."
Seems like they're moving in the right direction.
Mulberry (3-2) is looking a lot better at this point of the season then they did last year, when Lake Wales beat them 26-9. The Panthers also lost to district foes Auburndale and Tenoroc last year.
Whether that happens again this year remains to be seen, but the Panthers have already exceeded their win total from last year.
They beat Hardee 37-0 last week, Frostproof 16-6 in a rainy affair the week before and Avon Park 9-6 on Sept. 14. Their only losses are to Ridge, which beat them 21-0, and Bartow, which won 16-10. And all those games were mostly without two big linemen, including Williams, who returned last week after sitting out the first four games with a fractured foot.
But those games are on the back burner, and feeling good about a few wins isn't going to give the team a victory this Friday Mulberry coach Raleigh Jackson said.
"We just take it one game at a time and this is the next game. Lake Wales is big, strong, fast and athletic," Jackson said. "Their offensive linemen are big and strong and they have a great defense."
The Highlanders (2-2) also run the ball well.
Lake Wales is averaging 194 yards per game, with Tony Reeves carrying most of the load. He won't play this Friday because he violated team rules, coach Rod Shafer said, but Lake Wales has a bevy of backs who can step in and make an impact.
Like Mulberry, Lake Wales isn't taking this game lightly. They bought the hype of a Top 10 preseason ranking in the Associated Press state football poll the first few weeks and ended up starting the season 0-2.
"We should be 4-0 but our seniors haven't gotten the job done," said senior lineman De'Shaun Dunn, who gathered the group after the loss to Lake Gibson on Sept. 7 and told them that two losses were enough."We took those teams lightly and we're flipping the page to the championship page."