After consecutive 5-5 seasons — which included a 29-26 loss to Pepperell in a 2009 Region 7-AA play-in game — Adairsville appears to be the closest it has ever been to making the playoffs during head coach Jim Kremer’s three-year tenure.
The Tigers (8-1, 4-1 Region 7B-AA), a No. 2 seed from the south sub-region, will look to complete a season-long mission tonight when they visit Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (4-5, 4-2 Region 7A-AA), a No. 3 seed from the north sub-region.
“We wanted to be in position to make the playoffs and here we are. We have to go out there and put a complete game together,” Kremer said. “The seniors we have on this team, they know it’s sudden death from here on out and I believe they feel extremely motivated to continue their season, [as are] the coaches — I think the whole team is extremely motivated to continue the season.”
Adairsville is coming off a 9-0 victory over Rockmart last Friday, its second straight win following its only defeat of the season to Pepperell.
Though things have gone well for the Tigers this season, their coach acknowledged that the team could stand to convert more when its within striking distance.
“We need to score touchdowns when we get in the red zone. Statistically, we have not turned the ball over much this year which has been a positive,” Kremer said, adding that Adairsville has piled up yards but not always points. “We just need to put the ball in the end zone. … We need to take those opportunities and convert them into touchdowns. We’ve stopped ourselves some, and we just need to execute and protect things like that. But across the board, we’re just trying to get better.”
Even with their offense scoring just once against the Yellow Jackets, the Tigers benefited from a defense that kept the visitors off the scoreboard while adding two points on a safety.
Jake Powell, the team’s punter, was virtually an extension of the defense and helped back Rockmart up time and time again.
“Kicking game-wise, this past week we were able to down three balls inside the 2-yard line,” said Kremer, who noted that the defense’s safety was set up by a Powell punt.
The Adairsville coach said his team will need to continue winning the field position battle.
While the Warriors will be coming off a loss, fifth-year coach Todd Windham found many positives in the team’s 35-13 loss to Calhoun, which is the No. 2 Class AA team in the state.
“Obviously, nobody likes to come off a loss, but we did feel like we played a hard-fought game against Calhoun,” Windham said. “One thing we didn’t want to do was be intimidated and be outhit and that kind of thing, and I thought our kids did well. … We made ’em work for everything they got.”
The LFO coach did acknowledge, however, that his team would need prevent the big play against a good Tigers team.
“We’re gonna have to eliminate the big play defensively. If you start looking back at Calhoun’s scores, they were big plays,” Windham said. “Offensively, we gotta start moving the chains. … Times when we’ve been successful we’ve been able to shorten the game.”
The Warriors loss last week ended a four-game winning streak, which was preceded by an 0-4 start and 15-game losing skid.
“We really had a bad game to open [up the season] against Ringgold, had six turnovers,” Windham said. The team’s other early losses, he said, were closer contests. “You start looking at those first four games and really after the first game, we really started knocking on the door and playing some good football.”
Kremer expects to see a different team from the one that began the season.
“They’re a much-improved team from the first of the year. They’re a very big team,” he continued.
Windham said that after the bad start, it would have been easy for a team that went 0-10 in 2009 to let a losing mentality creep back in. His players never did that.
“When we got off to [that] start, the thing you worry about is that mentality. … They held it together,” the LFO coach said. “They gave themselves a chance.”
“Our kids know they [can] get out there and play with some of the best programs in north Georgia,” Windham added. “For those seniors that went through last year … to be able to play their last home game with the playoffs on the line, that’s going to be fun.”
The Warriors have gone 4-2 in games decided by 8 points or less this season; the Tigers have won two such games and have pulled away in the second half of close games the last two weeks.
“I think the biggest factor it’s gonna come down to is we’ve been able to win all those games that have been close, so we should be able to hold our composure,” Kremer said.
Adairsville and LFO are to kick off at 7:30 p.m.