"Being first-team All-Gwinnett County is a huge deal for a Class A school in this county dominated by 7A schools," says Pridgen. "That should say just about everything about his ability. He has incredible footwork. He is built like a dominant lineman, and plays like a dominant lineman. Tanner is coachable, and loves his teammates. His smile is infectious, always up-beat, and always positive."
According to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, Friday night the Wesleyan Wolves will play a 14th game for the third time in school history. It last happened in 2010 and that team finished 12-2.
The other time was in 2008. It was Pridgen's third year as head coach and the Wolves howled all the way to the state championship. It has been a few years since that championship season, but reminders are easy to find around the campus.
"Everybody knows that we have won it before," says Pridgen. "2008 is up in our stadium and it's up in our gym. The guys from that team are still present and around campus. Some of them have spoken to our team. David Andrews, who was on that team, is now with the New England Patriots. He's a two time Super Bowl champion, and he comes around a lot. I don't have to talk about 2008. I want to use my experience from that year and the other successful years that we have had to try and make this year the best that it can be. I don't want to take anything away from these kids in 2019. They were in elementary school in 2008 and they deserve to have their own spotlight."
This team earned its own spotlight after this season in Region 5. Wesleyan is one of three teams from their region that will still be playing this Friday. Back-to-back midseason loses to Holy Innocents’ and Eagle's Landing Christian are still a sore spot for the Wolves. The Golden Bears and the Chargers will square off in the other Class A Private semifinal. The winner of that game could land a spot in the state championship contest against another region rival.
Of course, that means Wesleyan would need to beat Fellowship Christian this week. The Paladins, champions of Region 6, are a perfect 12-0. Wesleyan is preparing for an offense that moves like fast break basketball on turf.
"They are going to try and run a play every 12 to 15 seconds," says Pridgen. "That's lightning fast! We've got to handle Fellowship's tempo. It's not as much a physical thing for us at it is a mental thing. I think getting out in front will be important, because they have not trailed very much this year and I would like to put them in a position to have to play from behind. That would be a new experience for them, and I hope we get that opportunity."
Opportunity ... It's the word that all high school football coaches will use freely during semifinal week. It's a word that is used as a reminder of how fortunate a team is to survive and make it to the 14th week. For a program that last won a state title in 2008 the opportunity is precious.