Murray County

November 9, 2012

Friday night football previews: Area playoff hopefuls need wins

Losing is not an option for the three area football teams that still have a chance to make the state playoffs.

Dalton and Northwest Whitfield must win their Region 7-4A “play-in” games tonight to earn a spot in the 32-team field for the Class 4A state playoffs, while Christian Heritage must win its Region 6-A crossover game tonight and hope for help to get into the top 16 of the Class A private school power rankings. All three host their regular season finales, with Dalton taking on Pickens, Northwest facing Gilmer and Christian Heritage playing King’s Ridge Christian.

Tonight’s other regular season finales for area schools are all at home as well, with Southeast Whitfield facing Cedartown; North Murray against Gordon Central, Coahulla Creek versus Adairsville and Murray County taking on Coosa. All kickoffs are set for 7:30.

For Dalton, which finished second in Sub-region 7B-4A and earned a game against 7A-4A’s third-place team, this could be the culmination of a late-season surge after a 2-3 start to the year that included lopsided losses to Cass and Ridgeland. Starting with a 24-19 win against rival Northwest on Oct. 12, the Cats (6-3) have reeled off four straight wins.

“We kind of had a turnaround after the Ridgeland game,” junior linebacker Lyle Durham said.

However, Dalton has been hit with a bug, not the injury one but the virus type. On Tuesday, Catamounts coach Matt Land said the team had “15 guys out with the flu.” He declined to give names, but said around half are starters.

“Last week we had 12 and this week we had 15,” Land said. “Last week we had five starters that didn’t play. This week we have 15 out and eight of them are starters. So, we’ll see who’s ready on Friday.”

Pickens (5-4) had an opportunity to win its sub-region — with a win against River Ridge and a Cedartown victory against Gilmer — but neither happened, so the Dragons were slotted against the Cats. In Chris Parker’s first year leading the program, he has it one win from reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2005. But he noted the contrast between each program’s accomplishments — Parker said Dalton “has won 40 times the region championships that we have.

“They are what we’re trying to build toward,” he said. “Sometimes you have to play those teams and sometimes you have to beat those teams.”

Parker also showed concern for containing Cats running back Kelvis Rhodes, who has 1,271 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns as a sophomore this season.

“You’ve got to get the behind the chains a little bit,” Parker said. “They are really dangerous when they can run and throw.”

Land pointed to the size of Pickens as something Dalton must prepare for.

“I think what stands out to us is they have a very big line, offensively and defensively,” Land said. “On defense, they play assignment football. They aren’t blitzing.”

On offense, Pickens brings a variety of quick-hit passing plays and misdirection running calls, both usually from the shotgun.

“We’re expecting a lot of run plays and pass plays,” Durham said. “So far we’ve been looking at shotgun and stuff like that. We also know they line up in some crazy formations, too.”

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