Wetumpka at Calera pre

File / The Herald Terrance Thomas (22) had two big plays on special teams in last year’s win over Calera.

When you build up the expectations around a football program the way Wetumpka has, any loss can come as a surprise. However, the Indians are prepared to get back out on to the field to show they have not been shaken by the loss when they hit the road for the third consecutive week to take on Calera to open play in Class 6A Region 3.

“I thought we had a great practice (Monday) morning,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “We talked about how one game doesn’t have to define our season. We didn’t play well and no one knows that better than the players themselves. We’re disappointed but it’s not over. That has been the mentality.”

Perry said he has liked the response ever since the final whistle in the loss to Dothan. He spoke highly of the leadership from the senior class and the captains to keep everyone’s heads held high because there is still a long season ahead of them.

Wetumpka has not made a habit of losing in recent years but one constant has been responding from each loss in a big way. The Indians have not lost two games in a row since 2015 and have outscored their opponents by 18.1 points per game following a loss in the last three seasons.

“I think that’s a credit to the coaches here and the fact that our players have bought into our program,” Perry said. “We put all of our heart and soul into each game but these players understand it’s about how we’re playing in mid-October and late in the season. We had two disappointing losses last season but the team dealt with that and moved on to play at a high level. They know how to handle this.”

Bouncing back from a loss is not the only thing on Wetumpka’s mind this week as the quest for a third consecutive region title officially begins. The team now has a target on its back in region play and Perry said it understands how important getting off to a good start is.

The last time someone other than Wetumpka won its region was 2016 when it lost the region opener at Chelsea.

“We talked about it being the start of region play,” Perry said. “It’s still our goal to win the region and our kids are very aware of that. I think that had a lot to do with the energy in practice because it is a region game.”

Calera (1-1) is looking to show it belongs in a tough region after a disappointing season in 2018. The offense will have a new look with Quindarius Crews, former top receiver for the Eagles, taking over at quarterback this year.

Crews will be looked at as the key playmaker for Calera all year but he is joined in the backfield by a group of backs who complement each other well and are used as a committee. Blake Shoddie has been used as a power back while Chris Cotton and Kobe Prentice have proven to be speed threats on several occasions.

“They seem to be playing at a very high level right now,” Perry said. “They play with a lot of energy and they fly around the field on offense and defense. They have very good team speed and they have a dynamic quarterback. They play with a lot of confidence.”

The defense especially is ready to turn a corner this week. Dothan’s 54 points against Wetumpka were the most the Indians have allowed since Perry took over in 2012.

“Their pride was hurt,” Perry said. “We have a lot of young guys on defense and we need experience but that’s hard to get quickly. But they want to get better. This group is extremely competitive and they take pride in what they do and in our program. The effort is there.”

PREDICTION: Wetumpka 45, Calera 27

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.