However, it is the Golden Lions who have the momentum as the two Atlanta private schools get together for their latest meeting Friday at 7:30 p.m. at St. Pius’ George B. Maloof Stadium.
The Golden Lions — the Class AAA state runner-up in 2012 — have defeated Westminster the last two years in a row — including last season’s 21-3 victory — after the Wildcats had won 23 of the previous 26 games.
“You have to kind of measure yourself and see where you are while playing an outstanding team, a well-coached team, like Westminster, that’s developed into a really good rivalry.” St. Pius coach Paul Standard said.
Westminster assistant coach Joe Sturniolo said the rivalry with St. Pius is an important one for the Wildcats.
“We’ve played St. Pius 28 times in our history, so they’ve been a traditional rivalry,” Sturniolo said. “It goes all the way back to 1959, so we’ve been playing St. Pius for a long time. It’s a big rivalry. We have a lot of respect for Coach Standard and his staff. We’ve beaten them most of the time, but they beat us last year and they went on to play for a state championship. So, to play a team coming off of a state championship run is going to be a tough challenge for us.”
It will be the second week in a row that Westminster faces a powerhouse team from Region 6AAA after opening its season at home against Blessed Trinity last Friday.
St. Pius begins its quest for another trip to the AAA finals with a squad that lost a number of key contributors to last year’s state finalists, including fullback Ryan Braswell and quarterback Jack Spear.
But the Golden Lions still have plenty of talent on hand on both sides of the ball, with free safety/running back Nick Ruffin — an Auburn commit — linebacker Daniel Crochet and running back Branden Mitchell among the key players.
“They lost some talent,” Sturniolo said. “But, the year before, they lost [cornerback] Geno Smith [now at Alabama], but they still came out looking pretty good. So there’s no such thing as rebuilding at St. Pius. We know they lost their quarterback and their running back, but it’s not going to make a difference.
“If you look at the way they are coached and the way their system is — even their JV team was very strong last year — so I have no doubt that who they’re going to put on the field is going to be able to fill in just as well as the players they lost, the same way they replaced Geno Smith last year. Their system is such — it’s not so much playing individuals as is playing a system and they’ve got a system that’s very well developed.”
Westminster is stocked with talent in the skill positions, including running back Cameron Seward and quarterback Jake Forte, while tackle Sam Schmal anchors the offensive line.
“They’ve got a great quarterback who can throw the ball and they’ve got a great running back who is very fast — I don’t know if we have anybody who can catch up with him — so we have a huge challenge ahead of us,” Standard said. “They’ve got a good defensive line and they’ve got four linebackers who are very aggressive. They run a good defensive scheme and they run a good offensive scheme.”