Justice Archer and Woodville open the 2021 season Thursday night against Ider.

Woodville head football coach Matt Sanders and his coaching staff have spent their prep time for the Panthers’ season-opening opponent Ider working on a myriad of things they could see from the Hornets.

Ider underwent a coaching change in the offseason with Chad Grant take over at his alma mater. For Sanders and company, that uncertainty in schemes has had Woodville “working on what we think they’ll do and working on some other things they might could do. As a coach you want to be as prepared as you can, so not exactly knowing is tough. We’ll probably have to adjust on the fly more this week than we will all year.”

The feeling is likely mutual for Grant and Ider, with Sanders set to also make his debut with his new team.

Woodville travels to Ider for Sanders’ coaching debut with the Panthers Thursday night. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Ider High School’s Wayne C. Hardman Stadium.

It’s the fourth all-time meeting between the teams in a series Ider leads 3-0. A year ago, the Hornets topped Woodville 23-8 in the teams’ first meeting since 2007.

Woodville dominated the game statistically but was undone by turnovers as Ider scored 15-unanswered points in the fourth quarter to rally for the win. Sanders said that uneven performance has stuck with returning Panthers players heading into this season’s rematch.

“Watching that fil I felt like they were a few mistakes away from winning that game,” Sanders said. “We’re focused on that, cutting down on penalties and turnovers. If we do that and play well up front like they did last year, do the little things right and play our assignments, we’ll be OK.”

Grant was hired in May to replace Miles Keith, who is a now an assistant coach at Scottsboro. Grant was previously the offensive coordinator at Buckhorn and is also a former assistant coach at North Sand Mountain and Pisgah. He takes over a team that finished 2-8 last season, opening the year with a win at Woodville and closing it with a 48-30 win over Whitesburg Christian. 

Ider is expected to be a run-heavy offense and returns a large number of starters, including running back/quarterback Matthew Norman, who ran for 229 yards and three touchdowns against Woodville last season, and 2020 leading rusher Hunter Robinson. The Hornets also have four starters back across the offensive line and a tight end. 

“A lot of people would say he’s old-school, but he’s just a football coach. He’s like me, wants to run the ball and try to stop the run (on defense). The team that does that will probably win the football game.”

Sanders said Woodville’s players are eager for their first taste of game action. 

“With our numbers, we haven’t to do a full scout team (scrimmage),” said Sanders, whose team is up to 21 players after entering fall camp with 14. “They’re ready to get after somebody else for a change.”

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