According to Adairsville head coach Eric Bishop, his team returns a solitary two-year starter in offensive lineman Dave Adams, and an injury has Adams set to miss Friday’s season-opening game at Chattooga.
It means there will be plenty of inexperienced underclassmen seeing significant snaps. Following a home scrimmage last week against Woodland, this will be the first varsity road trip for a substantial portion of the Tigers roster.
Bishop hopes a longstanding team rule will help his players mentally and physically prepare for Friday night’s contest. Every Friday night, whether playing home or away, Adairsville observes the 5:40 rule, which begins a countdown to kickoff that never changes. He also pointed out that several of this year’s starters saw playing time on a regular basis last season.
"We feel like that kind of eases the transition from these kids playing ninth-grade and JV [games] to playing that 7:30 start on a Friday night," Bishop said of the pregame schedule. "From 5:40 on, they see that same routine. ...
“As far as returning starters, yeah, we don't have that many, but we have kids that had to play a great deal of plays throughout the course of last season due to all the injuries we had."
Even still, Adairsville is obviously going to have a steep learning curve with so many new starters. The scrimmage showed more than a few points of concern. However, Bishop said earlier this week that the process of correcting the issues was already well underway.
"We obviously started the process right after the game Friday, with the coaches reviewing the game film," Bishop said Tuesday. "Saturday morning film session with those guys proved to be very beneficial. ... The offensive and defensive lines stood out as the ones that had the most improvement from Friday to Monday."
The Tigers will certainly need to show much improvement to challenge a team that reached the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs last season. Chattooga wound up 9-3 in 2018 with one of those defeats coming in the form of a 21-20 loss to Adairsville in Week 1.
The Tigers needed a late 2-point conversion to escape with a win, and it wouldn’t be too surprising if the teams play out another thriller Friday night. Over their recent history, which includes several years in the same region, Chattooga and Adairsville have played in several tight ballgames.
"That's the reason coach [Charles] Hammon and I scheduled this game two years ago and continue to have a gentleman's agreement that we're going to keep this series up," Bishop said. "We do feel like it's a good matchup for both teams. ... It's a game that we can play in a non-region setting that is going to benefit both teams. We see from them kind of a mix of what we see in our region. They're athletic in a few positions, and they play hard-nosed offense and defense up front."
Although Chattooga could struggle to match last year’s overall success, there’s no reason to think they will be a pushover in Friday night’s game. Then again, it’s hard to get a good gauge on a team entering the start of the regular season, especially when Adairsville only had 49 plays — 27 on offense, 22 on defense — to go off from Chattooga’s scrimmage.
One thing Bishop does know is that Jamarious Mosteller will be a major factor for the home team.
"He really seems to be their go-to guy," Bishop said of Mosteller. "They move him all over. He plays wide receiver, plays in the slot."
Overall, though, Chattooga circa 2019 remains somewhat of a mystery.
"They did graduate some guys who were key factors for them last year," Bishop said. "That kind of happens every year. In some years to a greater degree than others, of course. ...
“Not a whole lot of scout film. We expect they didn't show everything they expect to do in the first half of the scrimmage. We'll definitely have to ready to make adjustments on the run. It will be a good test for us."
The final score of Chattooga’s scrimmage was 55-0. However considering that hammering came at the hands of perennial Class 4A playoff team Cedartown, it’s hard to read much into the result.
Bishop certainly won’t be taking his opponent lightly, and his players shouldn’t either. If the Tigers do need one reason to believe it should be a competitive game or if they want a bit of motivation, they can point to MaxWell Ratings projections naming them a nine-point underdog.
"It's kind of deceiving, the score you see there against Cedartown," Bishop said. "That scrimmage situation, I don't think is a good indicator of how good a football team Chattooga is."