A solid kicking game and a steady rushing attack powered Cass High over Pepperell High in Friday night's scrimmage game, as the Colonels edged the Dragons 6-3 at Doug Cochran Stadium.
It's a welcome change of pace for a team that finished 0-10 last year. Head coach Bobby Hughes said he's already seeing some fundamental differences in this year's squad.
"We're finishing, finding a way to score points when we had to," he said. "The kids fought and found a way to win and I'm so proud for them. Last year we struggled but we played hard. We're believing in what we're doing and we pulled out one here tonight ... and that's a very good football team we played."
Sophomore kicker Kaleb Speights booted the game-winner with about four minutes remaining in the fourth. The field goal from about 35 yards out was complemented by a game-tying chip shot from nearly 40 yards in the final seconds of the first half.
The second quarter ended with the Colonels putting on an impressive two-minute drill. In just one minute and 40 seconds, the boys in blue and gold chewed up 48 yards, with junior running back Cameron Hill breaking off a 21-yard run up the gut. In three quarters of play he collected just shy of 50 yards on the ground.
The Colonels also got steady production in the second half from two freshmen running backs — Ian Lowe and Isaac Linley, who broke out first down-earning runs of 12 yards and 15 yards, respectively.
Sophomore David Gbadie wrapped up the game with about 20 rushing yards. Seniors Thomas Gilliam (about 20 yards) and Malik Grimes (about 10 yards) saw limited action after the first quarter.
"Thomas rolled his ankle in the first half and we had to go with Cameron more," Hughes said. "We were going to go 50/50 and Cam got a little bit more of the carries."
Senior quarterback Rett Moore finished the game with about 65 passing yards, with his longest pass of the game a 20-yarder to senior wide receiver Jacquez Fountain, who finished the game with about 45 yards.
Other receivers targeted included senior Javen Bridges (11 yards), Gilliam (6 yards) and Hill (three yards.)
Moore also had an opportunity to play hero on defense, when he recovered a Pepperell fumble early in the second quarter.
"The offensive line played really, really well," Hughes said. "Coach DeWitt's done a great job with them. It's something we can build on."
On defense, junior tackle Khobe Johnson notched a sack, pushing the Dragons back seven yards to end the first quarter.
Hughes also singled out senior defensive ends Christian Yanes and senior Beau Smith for making some plays.
"You can see we're not oversized, we're undersized and we play hard," Hughes said. "But the biggest thing is we got great leadership from [senior linebacker] Rodney Richards and Rett."
The game wasn't without its fair share of yellow flags, though, as the two teams combined for 22 penalties.
"It's a scrimmage, we expected it," Hughes said. "You want to clean them up, you don't want them, but you're going to get them."
Hughes, however, said he was pleased by how long the Colonels held possession of the football. "That's something that we've talked about wanting to change," he said, "and we did offensively fit into that."
The Colonels first regular season game, a home stand against Adairsville High, is scheduled for Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
As for adjustments heading into the big season opener, Hughes said it's simply a matter of continuing to make improvements across the board.
"We just got to get better," he said. "We've got to look at this film and we've got to get better, better, better."