Following a tough start to the season, last week’s bye gave the Cass Colonels an opportunity to turn their focus inward.
“Coming off the off week, we got a chance to heal up a little bit, go back to work on some fundamental stuff that you wish you had more time to work on during the season,” Cass coach Bobby Hughes said. “We’re just trying to spend more time on parts of the game that you’re not able to spend as much time on, because you’re just limited by the number of man-hours you have.”
It will be homecoming week for the Colonels (0-5), who take on East Paulding (1-4) Friday.
In neither case do the team’s records reflect how competitive they’ve been.
The East Paulding Raiders played a difficult non-region schedule and, after taking down Villa Rica 30-14 in their first region game, found themselves matched up with Carrollton and Kell, both ranked in the top 10 in Class 5A.
In two shootouts, East lost to No. 4 Carrollton by two and No. 10 Kell by seven.
That’s life in Region 7-AAAAA, which also features Rome, ranked No. 1 in the classification.
Cass has also experienced that, losing to Kell by 18 in its last game two weeks ago.
The three-score loss was actually an improvement from last year, when the 3-7 Colonels fell to Kell 39-7.
That theme — improvement but no results — has been a constant for coach Hughes’ snakebit team in 2017.
The Kell loss has been their widest margin of the year, as Cass has played teams close but always found a way to lose in the end.
“Even coming off of the Kell game, we played a really good football team, and we played pretty solid,” Hughes said. “So we’ve got to continue. We did a good job of crunching a lot of numbers and showing the kids realistic numbers, and from a yardage standpoint, I think we’re exactly within two yards of what we’re giving up.”
The problems for the Colonels have been turnovers and penalties.
“Right now, it comes down to we’re minus-eight in the turnover department, and penalties, we have over 100 yards more in penalties than our opponents do,” Hughes said. “So turnovers and penalties, right now, are huge difference makers for us, and we’re spending a lot of time emphasizing cleaning those up.”
Even if they do, Friday’s game might still be a tough order.
Despite its record, East Paulding is the favorite to take the fourth and final playoff spot in the region, and Hughes said Raiders running back Tyrell Robinson might be one of the best his team has faced all year.
“We’ve got to slow down that running back, No. 15, he’s really, really a good running back,” Hughes said. “He’s really, really shifty. If he has space, he can go, so we’ve got to keep him bundled.”
On defense, the Raiders will show a lot of different looks, a lot of presnap movement, and a lot of weight up front.
“Defensively, they’re very active. A lot of stunting, a lot of moving,” Hughes said. They’re big on the offensive and defensive fronts, so we’ve got to do a good job technique-wise, make sure we’re moving people.”
Thanks to the off week, Hughes and his staff got a good look at the Raiders, attending the East Paulding-Kell game last week.
That helps, but no matter the scouting report, Hughes and the Colonels know that Friday’s game will turn on what they do.
“We just want to put four solid quarters together,” Hughes said. “As hard as we can play for four quarters, and then we think we’ll like the outcome. But our room for error is not real good, so we’ve got to be as solid as we can for four quarters.”