4A high school football preview: Westlake at Woods Cross

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 24 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

Bountiful vs Woods Cross in high school football played in Woods Cross, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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Westlake (4-5) at Woods Cross (8-2)

4A state tournament first round

Friday, 3:30 p.m.

Parry’s Power Guide: Woods Cross by 30

All-time series: First meeting

Coach vs. coach: First meeting between Westlake’s Gary Clark and Woods Cross’ Justin Spencer

WOODS CROSS — During the preseason, Woods Cross set out specific and lofty goals. This class of Wildcats, rumored to be the most talented group of seniors to ever walk the halls, wanted to win the region championship and follow suit with the first state title in school history.

Albeit a different set of circumstances than originally imagined because of the sanctions imposed on East, Woods Cross nonetheless accomplished its first of the two goals to enter the 4A playoffs as the No. 1 seed from Region 6. The ’Cats host Westlake (4-5) at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

“We have a goal to compete in the playoffs and to advance week by week,” Woods Cross coach Justin Spencer said. “It’s cliché, but we’re definitely not going to look past Westlake. I’m not going to comment on anything beyond that. It’s just important that we do what we’re supposed to do and take care of our business with Westlake.”

Westlake enters the postseason for the second consecutive season under .500. That didn’t deter the Thunder in 2011, however, as they upset Mountain Crest and gave Timpview everything it could handle in the quarterfinals.

“We haven’t looked at their record at all. All we’re looking at is them as a quality opponent. You see them on all film and they’ve got big strong kids and they execute what they’re trying to do,” Spencer said. “They do a lot of different things offensively and they do a lot of different things defensively. The reality is it's going to come down to us being able to put together a good game plan and put our boys in a good position to be successful.”

That success hinges on the health of Stanford commit Sean Barton. He suffered a separated shoulder midway through the season in a loss against East, and last week in a surprising 21-14 setback to Olympus he was held out entirely for precautionary reasons.

“He probably won’t be at full strength ever until that shoulder has time to heal,” Spencer said of Barton. “He’s just a trooper and he’s battling through it but he’ll be in a position, it’s just a pain tolerance deal, as long as he can handle it he’ll stay in.”

The season has delivered a readable recipe for success thus far. When the Wildcats are able to move the sticks on the ground, they usually win.

“That’s what we’ve figured out as we’ve got to know each other, myself being a first-year head coach here at Woods Cross, the team was predominately a passing offense last year — they passed for 3,000 yards,” Spencer said. “We brought kind of a running system into the school. We’ve struggled at times throughout the year to find out who we are and what is our true identity. The games that we’ve won we’ve been able to run the ball.

“We’ve had a lot of success running the football. I’m a firm believer if you run the football and stop the run that’s the formula for success in high school,” Spencer continued. “That’s going to be one of our points of emphasis to try and make sure that we can establish ourselves at the line of scrimmage both offensively and defensively.”

Westlake statistical breakdown

Scoring offense: 12.1 ppg

Scoring defense: 26.0 ppg