Heading into West Forsyth's football scrimmage on Friday against Creekview, Shawn Cahill was a bit in the dark in more ways than one.
Firstly, the first-year head coach hadn't seen this fall's iteration of the Wolverines play at full game speed against an opposing team. He knew what they were running and who would be running it, but everything after that was a guess.
"People were asking (Cahill), 'What do you think tonight's going to be? How do you think the team's going to do?'" senior defensive back Cade Vela said. "And he said, 'I have no clue.' I think that's how all of us were."
And when he got on the sidelines, Cahill had no option but to watch and cheer the team on. Literally -- West had a mishap in headset management, leaving Cahill without one.
The uncertainty quickly turned to encouragement for West, though, as big plays on both sides of the ball and a stout defensive showing up front helped the varsity squad outscore Creekview 35-14 over two quarters.
"I feel good," Cahill said. "I just told the guys right now, 'That's the first time I've seen you play,' and that's what I wanted to do tonight. I came out here and wanted to watch the game a little bit ... see who was going to make some plays and who wasn't."
The offense the Wolverines are running under new offensive coordinator Chad Davenport is nothing revolutionary or particularly unconventional. They ran tailback Saxby Waxer in a zone scheme, and he was generally effective, consistently putting out runs of three to five yards.
Quarterback Zach Burns showed an accurate arm and solid mobility, with the Wolverines running designed rollouts at times. They didn't huddle and, in the style of many up-tempo offenses, called plays using large posters with pictures – one had the Twitter logo, the Superman symbol, the orange Tennessee 'T' and an orange square. Davenport also ran the unit from up in the booth, whereas former head coach Adam Clack was on the sidelines.
"It's a unique perspective, for me to be able to get on the headset and see what (Davenport) is seeing from the top," Burns said. "It's a much different view of what a defense is doing."
It was tough to get a deep impression of the offense mainly because of how quickly the Wolverines scored. After going three-and-out on their first offensive series, the second ended with Burns finding Bryce Jones wide open after one of Creekview's cornerbacks fell down and connecting for a 63-yard touchdown pass.
On the series after that, Burns hit Stephon Bland with a pass in the flat on the left side, and Bland put a would-be tackler in the turf on his way to a 65-yard score. West's third offensive touchdown came on the ground, with Burns rolling out to the left and giving Vela an option pitch, which he took 60 yards in.
The Wolverines won't complain about scoring points, but Cahill was left wanting to see a bit more of the offense's capabilities.
"I wanted to see us put a drive together," Cahill said. "And I wanted to see our offensive line be a bigger part of that. But at the same time, you don't want to take away points when you put them up."
The West defense was also formidable, both in its pressure and its ability to turn the ball around for scores. Creekview didn't get a first down until its fourth offensive series, when quarterback Chandler Gantt ran for a first down.
Linebacker Ryan Wnek had a sack, drawing murmurs from the crowd when he hammered Gantt for a loss of six yards, and Jake Cummings had a sack for a long loss on third down, when he chased and brought down a scrambling Gantt. Mikhari Sibbs, who worked as an edge rusher, had a tackle for a loss of four yards.
West's big-play streak extended to defense as well. Cade Vela scored the Wolverines' first defensive touchdown, hauling in a tipped pass and going 53 yards to the end zone, and shortly before halftime, Abraham Camara jumped a route and ran a pick in from 35 yards out.
"I knew our defense still has potential to be good," Cahill said. "We've got some things to fix, but they fly around pretty good."
Cahill had some quibbles with West's performance -- personnel issues, personal fouls and the lack of a truly convincing performance from the offensive line.
There was also the issue of the missing headset, but that may have been for the best -- it forced Cahill to stick with the more hands-off role he created for himself as head coach, where he leaves the play calling to his assistants.
"It's probably a good thing that I didn't have the headset on," Cahill said. "Because I probably would have started doing it."