The Woodville football team was dealing with numerous injures entering its bye week.
But the bye week worked wonders, head coach Tyler Vann said, and now the Panthers will be close to full strength heading into a key Class 1A Region 7 showdown vs. Gaylesville on Friday at 7 p.m. at GHS.
“The bye week was huge for us,” Vann said. “We were able to rest some guys who kind of were banged up and it gave us some time to get some other guys back. Carlos Torres, one of our two team captains is back, and the guys have been excited to have him back. Easton Parker is probably questionable, but has been able to do a few things (at practice). Brice Thompson could play, too. Getting all them back would be big, especially this time of the season.”
Friday’s game is the 15th all-time meeting between the teams.
Gaylesville, along with Valley Head, is one of the two teams Woodville has played every season since starting its varsity football program in 2006.
Gaylesville leads the series 10-4, but Woodville has won the last four meetings.
Woodville (2-5, 2-2) would clinch a playoff berth — the Panthers would mostly likely be the region’s No. 3 seed — if it defeats Gaylesville, Appalachian loses to Cedar Bluff and Coosa Christian loses to Sumiton Christian.
Meanwhile, the game is the region finale for Gaylesville (4-4, 2-3), meaning the Trojans must win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Gaylesville is coming off a COVID-19 related forfeit to Cedar Bluff last week, but Vann said Gaylesville officials confirmed on Monday the team’s ability to play this week.
Gaylesville is led offensively by senior running back D.J. Lee, who has also taken snaps from center in a shotgun formation following an injury to starting quarterback Tanner Eads.
Lee has rushed for 935 yards and 17 touchdowns on 114 carries while also completing 8-of-18 passes for 167 yards and three scores. He’s also one of Gaylesville’s top defensive players with 42 tackles and five interceptions.
“No. 2 (Lee) is a football player,” Vann said. “He’s an athlete. He’s quick and elusive, doesn’t mind contact. We’ve got to set the edge because if he gets outside we’ll be in trouble.”
Vann said Woodville must limit its mistakes on offense and tackle well on defense to claim a victory that could secure its postseason spot.
“This game is a big deal. It would be nice to go into next week (the region finale with Appalachian) already knowing we’re in (the playoffs),” Vann said.
“Offensively we’ve got to execute like we’re supposed to and take care of the football. When we do that we’re hard to stop. Defensively, we’ve got to tackle. We’ve got to wrap (Lee) up and swarm to the football. Just because you wrap him doesn’t mean he’s going down. We’ve got to execute the game plan to come out with a victory.”