Heritage handled Wakefield convincingly during a 41-20 regular season victory two weeks ago, but on Friday night, Wakefield built a 20-point third quarter lead and held on for a 40-35 victory.
Rematches are difficult for coaches.
“Playing a team a second time is different, because you already have a feel for what they are going to do against your base stuff,” Heritage coach Jason McGeorge said. “You have the opportunity to review what you did well or what you need to adjust from your first contest.”
The difficulty comes in what adjustments to make and how much to change.
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“They know what you do. They have a better understanding of your schemes. They understand your weak areas better,” McGeorge said. “So as a staff, we have to determine what we feel we need to adjust without making too large of a change. We want our players to believe in what we are doing, so if we change too much there may be doubt in our weekly game plan.”
The big statistical difference in the two games was Wakefield quarterback Matt McKay, who completed 11 of 29 passes for 213 yards in the loss and 17 of 34 for 351 and four touchdowns in the win.
“Matt made plays that he hadn’t made before,” Wakefield coach Rod Sink said. “It was like he suddenly got it. He isn’t a sophomore anymore; he has been through a regular season. He played well enough that we had a chance of winning.”
The victory turned on more than just improved passing. Sink said his players competed harder.
“Heritage outplayed us in the first game,” he said. “We talked about that. And we talked a lot about we were beaten by 21 points in the first game, but it might have been a different game except for a couple of plays. We had a pair of turnovers that were the difference in 28 points.”
McGeorge said he doesn’t believe overconfidence is a problem in rematches for the teams that won regular season matches.
“This is the playoffs,” McGeorge said. “All players are very focused, all players are very determined. In our game, we had a great week of practice, had great focus going into the game, but so did Wakefield.
“Ours was a great high school playoff game, and unfortunately someone had to end their season and it was us.”
The other big turn-around game was Bunn’s 15-6 win over South Granville, The Vikings had beaten Bunn 28-14 in the regular season. The key for Bunn, said coach David Howle, was avoiding turnovers.
“In the first game, we had a punt blocked for a touchdown, fumbled in our end zone for another touchdown and gave up a 97-yard fumble recovery for another touchdown,” Howle said. “That is a lot to overcome.
“Going into the playoff game, we thought it was going to be a close game determined by turnovers. We took better care of the ball and our defense played great. We shut them out until Granville scored on the last play of the game.”
The Wildcats (8-4) travel to Elizabeth City Northeastern (12-0) for a second round game Friday.
The biggest rematch in the second round is Panther Creek playing at Green Hope. The host Falcons won the regular season game 17-10.