Adairsville head coach Eric Bishop takes a lot of pride in his team’s conditioning. He believes that as a game moves into the fourth quarter that his Tigers will be able to either pull away or rally back more often than not.
Well, Adairsville didn’t have the chance to test that theory last week at North Murray. Not only did the game not include a fourth quarter but also the Region 6-AAA contest never had a third period or even reached halftime.
Lightning interrupted play following the game’s first snap from scrimmage. The teams eventually played into the second quarter with North Murray, fresh off a 31-7 win over Calhoun, taking a 28-0 lead. Subsequent interruptions eventually led to the rest of the game being called off and the Mountaineers being declared the winner.
“We only played about 16 1/2 minutes of football,” Bishop said. “There were — if you count punts and everything — 46 plays the whole football game between the two of us.
“Coach [Preston] Poag and I agreed that with the score the way it was and the likelihood of us getting back on the field — it looked like we were at least two hours out, at the point we made the decision — and with everything considered like what time we would get back on the field versus coming back the following day and risking injury, it was in both teams’ best interest that we go ahead and make the game a complete game. They could move on and so could we.”
The decision means the Tigers, who always watch film on Saturday, have had essentially the same amount of prep time for this week’s game as they always have. With a winnable game at home against Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, few could fault Bishop for deciding that throwing in the towel against North Murray was the best option.
The loss, though, puts Adairsville in the same spot it found itself at this point last year, sitting at 2-3 overall and 1-2 in region play. In 2018, the Tigers defeated the Warriors by a 13-12 final score and still didn’t make the playoffs. In other words, a win for the home team seems paramount for its playoff hopes.
While Adairsville can certainly win a low-scoring slugfest like last year, based on what his team needs to improve the most, Bishop would prefer to see more points this time around.
“I hope so, because that means we’re putting points on the board,” Bishop said of expecting a higher-scoring game. “But it’s really hard to tell. One issue is that they’re kind of going through what we went through last year with injuries. You don’t know what their personnel is going to look like, especially up front in the offensive line positions. They seem to be playing so many different people. … They’re definitely not as big up front on the offensive line as they have been in years past, but they seem to be faster and a little more athletic along the offensive line.”
Bishop spoke extensively about the importance of winning the battle in the trenches. He’s also shaking up his offensive line this week, not personnel-wise but just positionally moving guys around.
Haralson County, which defeated Adairsville 13-12 two weeks ago, earned a 36-22 win over LFO last week. While the injury woes were a possible factor, the Warriors (2-3, 2-1) seemed to wear down up front as the game progressed.
“They kind of lost their edge from a physicality standpoint,” Bishop said of LFO. “That’s where Haralson kind of separated the game late. What is cause for concern is that they put up 22 on them, whereas we only put up 12. That goes back to the difference between field goals and touchdowns.
“I like our defensive game plan. I think, we have some good matchups we can take advantage of.”
On the other side, given what Haralson County was able to do running the football last week, Adairsville will hope Friday offers a get-right game for its rushing attack.
“We haven’t been as successful as we’re used to running the triple option and power,” Bishop said. “We have had to resort to more quick-passing game and play-action passes that takes advantage of the aggression by the defense.”
Whether running or passing, the Tigers will look to get their skill guys the ball in space. It won’t be easy to pick up chunk plays against an athletic defense, but Adairsville should have a varied enough attack to give LFO some trouble.
“We have our hands full as an offense,” Bishop said. “The main thing we have to do is finish drives and put points on the board. … No. 1 priority has to be ball security, and No. 2 has to be putting it in the end zone.”
It will be easier said than done against a team that hadn’t allowed more than 17 points in a game until last week, and it should be noted that Haralson County remains a contender for the region title.
“Defensively, they have some guys who grab your attention,” Bishop said of LFO. “No. 8 [Joshua Haveman] is a defensive end/outside linebacker. They line up in a 3-4 look. He stands up and plays an outside linebacker position, and then they roll him down into more of a 4-2-5 type defense.
“No. 2 [Gabe Smith] is impressive as a linebacker. In the secondary, No. 1 [Zion Martin], No. 23 [Jerry Jackson], and they have a host of guys who play back there. They’re very physical in running to the football.”
Offensively, the Warriors have scored 96 points this season for an average of 19.2 points per game. That might not seem like a lot, but the Tigers will enter averaging just 12.2 points a game.
Adairsville has only lost once in 11 prior meetings with LFO, but the Warriors have improved greatly in recent years. An offense with a lot of possible variants will give the visitors a chance to knock off the Tigers on Friday.
“No. 22 [Jacob Brown] scares you to death,” Bishop said of LFO’s starting running back. “He has a lot of speed. They really try to get him out on the perimeter with tosses and sweeps, stuff of that nature. They’ll run the counter game with him.
“No. 24 [Jacob King] seems to be their go-to receiver. They had not thrown the ball a great deal until last week, really, against Haralson. We really don’t know if injuries were making them move in that direction or if they felt like that’s something they needed to do.”
Following the weirdness of last week, when Adairsville played roughly one-third of a game, Bishop is looking forward to returning to normal this Friday. That means playing an entire game and, he hopes, showing what great conditioning can do down the stretch.
“Something we hang our hat on is playing for 48 minutes,” Bishop said. “… Hopefully on Friday, when we do get to play a full 48 minutes, we’re playing better than our opponent in the fourth quarter. That’s always our goal.”