Christian Heritage (3-1) at Mount Zion (1-2)
Second-year Mount Zion coach Keith Holloway, who last season guided the Eagles to their first winning record in 16 years, understands what must happen to get past once-beaten Christian Heritage in the Sub-region 6A-A opener for both teams.
“Simple,” he said. “Keep the ball away from them. Last year was an offensive game. We ran it and they threw it.”
Defense matters this time.
Holloway is aware the Lions return 10 offensive starters and possess the best passing attack the Eagles will see 2013.
“Bar none,” he said.
Christian Heritage, the sub-region’s highest-scoring team, averages 36.7 points. Thirty-five of the 44 points allowed came in a season-opening loss to Model (3-1) and since then the Lions have posted two shutouts and given up just nine points.
If the Lions continue to play that way, the Eagles will be challenged to get yardage consistently.
“The whole year we’ve played good defense,” Poag said. “Last week, Fellowship had a big (6-foot-5-inch) quarterback that had been playing good. We put a lot of pressure on him and got him out of rhythm. Against Model, our defense gave them two touchdowns.”
Poag watched teams try to punish the Lions with persistent ground games in 2013, basically attempting to “run the ball down our throats.”
These Lions are bigger, stronger and more experienced. Early season injuries forced freshmen on to the field, but a solid linebacker corps — Matt Cook, Austin Lowe and Evan Townsend — anchor the unit and all the defenders are healthy.
Coahulla Creek (1-3, 0-1) at Cartersville (4-0, 1-0)
Cartersville lost several key players from last year’s Class 3A state semifinalist squad, which lost to eventual champion Buford.
The Purple Hurricanes, though, just keep on winning.
Because of talented returning starters such as quarterback Brooks Barden — who leads an offense averaging 43 points per game — Cartersville’s less experienced players have had time to grow into their new roles. The Purple Hurricanes, who are ranked No. 2 in this week’s Georgia Sports Writers Association’s Class 3A poll, started their Region 5-3A schedule last week by beating visiting North Murray 55-15.
“I think we are getting better each week,” said Cartersville coach Frank Barden, who is Brooks’ father. “They have come to work Monday through Thursday and are letting Friday night take care of itself. They are executing our game plan, and we are improving.
“We lost some very good senior leaders from last year, and it has had to take a few games to develop that unity and chemistry. That is the fun thing to have watched take place.”
Barden has thrown for 853 yards with 12 touchdowns this season. Against North Murray, he finished with 312 yards and four touchdowns passing while completing 14 of 16 attempts. He also rushed for two more touchdowns.
“We are excited to get to play one of the best teams in the state of Georgia,” Coahulla Creek coach Jared Hamlin said. “This is a great opportunity for our kids to be part of something big. They are as good a team as I have seen from top to bottom.”
The timing of facing the Purple Hurricanes couldn’t be much worse for the Colts, who lost 41-16 to previously winless Sonoraville in the Region 5-3A opener for both teams last week.
“Last week was tough. We just didn’t play very well and we didn’t coach very well,” Hamlin said. “It was a very disappointing loss. This week, we will become a better football team.”