Pepperell at Northwest
Sure, the visiting Dragons may be a Class 2A school, but Bruins coach Josh Robinson doesn’t want to hear anything about scheduling a weak opponent for his Class 4A program’s season opener.
“They’ve made the playoffs eight straight seasons,” Robinson said. “They are a very good football program and one of the best in this area.”
The Dragons finished the year 6-5 and lost 34-0 to Westminster in the first round of the state playoffs. The Bruins, however, haven’t reached the postseason since 2009, when they lost 40-3 to Southwest DeKalb in the Class 4A bracket.
Over the past eight years, the Dragons are 66-26.
But Northwest won 23-7 at Pepperell to start last season.
“Let me say this, if we don’t play well and do what we have to do, Pepperell will beat our brakes off,” Robinson said.
Robinson called the Dragons’ offensive line “at worst the second-biggest line we play this season.” He said Pepperell usually showcases a spread and I-formation offense, but this year the Dragons will base out of the wing-T.
“We’re trying to adjust to our personnel,” Pepperell coach Jeff Shiflett said. “We don’t have a lot of experience on offense.”
On defense, it’s another story. Pepperell returns nine starters, including defensive linemen Trippe Hobbs, a senior, and Zach O’Neal, a junior.
Northwest’s offense will take a much different approach than Pepperell’s wing-T, which tends to small gains and time-consuming possessions. The Bruins use offensive coordinator David Crane’s up-tempo, no-huddle spread scheme. Junior quarterback Caleb Shiflett, who is a first-time starter, has a lot of weapons on offense, including senior wide receivers Andy Whisenant and Tevin McDaniel.
Pepperell’s coach knows what that means for his defense.
“The biggest key is open-field tackling,” he said. “We have to do a good job of that. Spread offenses put you in a situation where you’re one on one and have to make a tackle.”