Murray County (1-4, 0-2) at Model (4-1, 2-0)
Numbers don’t lie.
Model, which shares the Region 7-2A lead with perennial state title contender Calhoun, is scoring 29 points per game while giving up just 11.
Murray County is at the other end of the spectrum. The Indians are once again struggling to win games and the numerical reason is clear — they’re giving up 39 points a game and scoring seven. No team in the region is scoring fewer points or giving up more.
Those statistics cannot be ignored.
“If you don’t look at the scoreboard when watching them on video, their offense looks pretty good,” Model coach Gordon Powers said. “Look at their schedule and scores, they’re doing things we’re doing — they’re getting a lot of negative yardage and making turnovers.”
Model is better equipped to overcome adversity than Murray County, though, and has already done so. Starting Blue Devils running back Nakyle Watkins blew his knee out the Tuesday before Model’s season opener against Christian Heritage, forcing anterior cruciate ligament surgery. A 1,000-yard rusher in 2012, Model built its offense around him for 2013.
Freshman Chris Dublin has filled in for Watkins, including a 70-yard touchdown run against the Lions. Another freshman, fullback Kyler Eldridge, has replaced another starter lost for the season with a knee injury.
“We had to throw those guys to the fire,” Powers said.
Senior quarterback Cameron O’Neal is healthy and has been the glue holding the offense together.
“Their offense is very athletic, very fast,” Indians coach Chad Brewer said. “Their defense takes pride in getting to the ball and lighting people up.”
Southeast (3-2, 1-0) at Ridgeland (1-4, 0-1)
Southeast has the task of keeping ground with the winner of Dalton and Northwest in the sub-region race, and the Raiders will have to do it on the road. They’ll play their second straight away game following last week’s victory at LaFayette.
Ridgeland is not the same as it was a year ago when it reached the Class 4A state championship, losing to Sandy Creek. Losing several starters has contributed to the Panthers’ struggling start, but they still have enough athletes at the skill positions to disrupt the opposition, something Raiders coach Sean Gray is fully aware of.
“They are a good football team regardless,” Gray said. “They have a lot of athletes and they are physical. We’re going to have to match that. We are going to have to be just as physical as they are. It’s no secret that they are going to run the ball and we’re going to have to stop it. We just have to show up and play hard from beginning to end.”
That complete game is something Gray is still looking for. The start-to-finish sharpness was lacking in the 31-17 win last week against LaFayette, when the Raiders were saved by a second-half rally led by senior quarterback Rhett Harper.
“I didn’t like the fact that we started really slow, but we responded really well after the half,” Gray said. “We challenged our seniors and they responded really well. After that score after the half when (LaFayette) went up 14-3, we scored four consecutive touchdowns and held them to a field goal the rest of the way. It turned out good in the end.”
Gray wants his team to play at the level shown in the second half “all the time.”
“We just assumed we were going to show up and blow them out,” he said.
— Compiled by sports writers Devin Golden and Chris Whitfield and correspondents Larry Fleming and Dave Gordon. The Georgia High School Football Historians Association website (ghsfha.org) was used as a resource for some scores and historical information.