Winters

Justin Winters (5) makes a tackle for the Wildcat defense.

The Enterprise Wildcats will close out the home portion of the 2020 schedule this Friday, Oct. 23, against the Class 7A No. 3-ranked Auburn Tigers in a Region 2 battle.

While the game has little playoff implication as Auburn has the No. 1 seed in the region locked up as Region 2 Champions, the Wildcats still have an outside shot of sliding into the No. 3 seed. Enterprise would need to upset Auburn as well as have Jeff Davis upset Prattville. Regardless, neither Auburn nor Enterprise wants to wrap up their region slate with a loss.

“They’re terrifyingly good. They can run it, they can throw it, they can do it all,” Enterprise coach Rick Darlington said. “Defensively, I think they’ll be the best defense we’ve seen and to me, they are the best opponent we’ll play this year. I just don’t see any chinks in their armor.”

Auburn hasn’t just beaten many of its opponents this season, the Tigers have dominated them. In nine wins, Auburn has won by 20 points or more in all but three games. One of those games was a 29-28 slugfest with Central-Phenix City, while the other two were forfeit wins over Riverdale (Ga.) and Bob Jones.

Darlington and defensive coordinator Jed Kennedy are fully aware that they have their hands full with Auburn’s offense, led by 6-foot-4-inch quarterback Matthew Caldwell.

“All three of their (starting) receivers are really, really good and they’re as good up front as Central,” Kennedy said. “Auburn has complex schemes and really great players. They want to throw the ball with that (6-4) quarterback.”

Caldwell - a 2020 transfer from Eufaula – has been hauntingly efficient for the Tigers completing 73-of-133 passes for 1,258 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions in just seven games.

“We’ve said since day one we have to stop the run and can’t give up big plays,” Kennedy emphasized. “If they want to throw the ball six or seven yards down the field then it is what it is, but you can’t give up the shot plays over the top or let them shove it down our throats like Central did.”

Darlington agreed with his defensive coordinator and one of Enterprise’s keys to success could very well be its own balanced offense. Multiple times this season Enterprise has had 11-play – or longer – drives that eat precious minutes off the clock, and every minute the Wildcat offense is on the field is a minute Auburn’s offense can’t look for big plays.

“We can’t have turnovers, we have to limit their big plays and we have to have that kind of game where we control the ball and the clock,” Darlington said. “We can’t just try to match them score for score and we can’t turn the ball over.”

The Wildcats are averaging nearly 300 yards on the ground but also more than 125 yards passing per game, and weapons like athlete Josh McCray, receiver Jared Smith and running back Mykel Johnson give opposing defenses fits.

“They’re a very well-coached and sound defense. They don’t do too many things but they do what they do very well,” Darlington said of Auburn’s defense. “They’re very good at what they do. They have two guys inside at defensive tackle that stand out and will make it really tough to run between the tackles.

“The thing about Auburn is their reputation has always been that they’re really well-coached, they give you a lot in special teams, they pull out trick plays and they’re really hard to prepare for.”

McCray has more than 1,300 all-purpose yards and 14 total touchdowns, while Johnson has rushed for more than 100 yards in four of the last five games. Those two – along with Enterprise’s additional stable of ball carriers – will be called on to churn out the yardage and eat up the clock this Friday night.

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