Wolves ready to defend state title

  • Monday, August 20, 2012

Wolves Coach Art Craig hoists the 2011 Class AA Div. I state championship aloft during the postgame celebration of Timberland’s 20-3 win over Woodruff.  

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The Timberland Wolves took the prize in 2011 and Coach Art Craig has enjoyed everything that comes with winning a state championship.
So much so, he wants to do it again. 
“Wouldn’t trade the experience for the world,” he said of the 2011 Class AA Division I state championship. “No reason we can’t do it again this year.”
Part of the state championship experience also includes the target painted on the team’s back the next fall. 
“Teams are going to be gunning for us,” he said. “And we welcome that. They think they’re going to find us down because of all the seniors we lost but we have some players coming back and some coming up through the ranks.”
It’s long been said that Timberland never rebuilds they simply reload and the Wolves are no different this year, but the senior class of 2012 was a special class of athletes and their absence will be felt. 
“You can’t lose a Daquan Lucas, Mike Wilson, Taylor Elizondo, or Lee Mayes and be affected by it. We have to replace a lot of talent from last year’s team, but after this summer’s workouts I believe our seniors have really stepped it up and taken on a leadership role.”
Craig pointed out the play of running back Deiondre Pressley who has separated himself from the pack during summer workouts. 
“Deoindre’s been explosive off the ball in workouts. He and Roderick McCrary have really worked hard this summer.”
Craig also mentioned senior Brian Moore, a unique player that will become a first in the long line of stellar Timberland linemen. 
“Brian is the first player I have that will start all four years both ways,” Craig said. “Quinton Washington didn’t do that, Aldrick Fordham didn’t do that, all those great players we’ve had come through this program, Brian Moore is the first player to accomplish this.”
With Moore anchoring both sides of the line, the Wolves will once again be big in the trenches with both of Craig’s younger sons in the lineup. At center Dylan Craig heads up the offensive line and Wyatt Craig lines up at tight end. 
Craig also said defensive back Austin McKinney will attract a lot of attention this fall. 
“There was a lot of hype surrounding Austin in the spring and that attention will continue into the fall, but it’s settled down a bit.”
The Wolves were able to settle on a new quarterback early on this summer in junior Matt Gabel. 
“Matt really distanced himself from the competition and established himself as the starter early,” Craig said. “He handles the ball well and has a good arm.”
“Matt is the sleeper of the year. He’s going to surprise a lot of people.”
While the Wolves’ Region 7AA line up will be altered slightly this fall with the loss of Manning to Class AAA and new region foe Lake Marion dropping to Class AA, Craig knows his team will have to hit the ground running with a tough pre-region schedule.
“We open with Manning on the road, then host Hanahan and then go on the road again to Cross. Those are three tough games right there.”
The Wolves then host Class A powerhouse C.E. Murray before the annual Berkeley game on Sept. 21. 
“Cross is always tough, and this year could be a big year for them,” Craig said. 
Craig told his team early in the summer that they have the unenviable task of being the team that follows a state champion. They would have the targets on their backs, but they would also have the responsibility of living up to the tag “Defending State Champs.”
“I told the guys that many teams would consider a 9-3 record a decent season and be happy with that,” he said. “For us that would be awful. When we last went to the state title game in 2006, we finished 9-3 the next season and were out of the playoffs in the second round. I asked them, do you want to be the team that follows a state championship season with a so-so year, or do you want to be the team that defends that state championship?”

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