Tigers look to open region play with win

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Adairsville and Coahulla Creek haven’t met since 2015. A lot has changed in the nearly three years since that meeting.

One major thing hasn’t, though. The Colts are still mired in a losing streak.

That 2015 defeat to the Tigers marked the third consecutive loss for the Colts. If Coahulla Creek fails to defeat Adairsville when the teams meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tiger Valley, it would extend the Colts’ losing streak to 27 straight games.

But Adairsville head coach Eric Bishop has warned his players that this isn’t the same Coahulla Creek team they pasted 49-3 in the team’s most recent encounter.

“They’re a much improved football program from when we played them last,” Bishop said Wednesday. “… We haven’t seen them in a couple years, and they’re going to be much improved from what our fans and our players remember them being.

“They’re not the pushover team they were when they first opened. It’s going to be a battle for us, and it’s not going to be as easy as some people might think.”

Overall, the Colts (0-2) are 6-56 in their seven-year history. Four of those defeats have come at the hands of the Tigers (1-1). The closest margin came in 2013 when Adairsville won 42-16.

It appears this could be the year Coahulla Creek gets back in the win column. The Colts nearly made it last week when they fell 9-6 in overtime to Southeast Whitfield.

This week’s contest is even more important for both teams, as it represents the opening of Region 6-AAA play. It’s a change from previous two years when the region was subdivided, which is why the programs haven’t met in a few years.

“It is important to get this first win,” Bishop said. “You’ll either be tied for first or tied for last in the region after Friday. It’s a big ballgame, because it’s the next one. Each one will carry the same amount of weight. We say no one game defines our season — be it Cass, Calhoun or Coahulla Creek. We’re going to play and try to win each one of them with the same intensity.”

Defense will be key for Adairsville to make sure it's one of those teams tied for first. Coahulla Creek has managed just six points apiece in its first two games, signaling an offense devoid of many home-run threats.

Senior wide receiver Michael King is the main playmaker for junior quarterback Cade Bates and the Colts offense.

“They’re kind of unlike any team we’ve played so far,” Bishop said. “They’re more of a spread-type offense that’s going to throw it around. Their base running game is power football and downhill running.”

Adairsville’s offense has shown a little more firepower than its counterpart — but not much. The Tigers scored 21 points to edge out Chattooga in the season opener. They followed that up with just 10 points in a disappointing showing against Cass on Aug. 24.

Coahulla Creek has been uneven on defense, allowing 34 points to Northwest Whitfield and the aforementioned nine points, including just three in regulation, to Southeast.

“On defense, they’re basically a 3-5 team,” Bishop said of Coahulla Creek. “They line up a little bit differently than the Calhouns and Sonoravilles who also line up in the 3-5. It’s not something we aren’t used to. We’ll just have to make some adjustments to some of the little nuances they do."

It seems the Tigers will need to attack the perimeter to have success against the Colts with Bishop saying the team’s strength is the spine of the defense.

“In the 3-5, you have to be strong up the middle — the MIKE linebacker, the nose guard and the free safety,” Bishop said. “They’re good in all three of those positions, and that’s where you need to start if you’re going to play in the 3-5.”

Which Adairsville quarterback will attack the 3-5 more often is still up in the air. Derrick Simmons took every snap at the position against Cass after the pair split reps against Chattooga.

Bishop would prefer to have Simmons and Mason Boswell get time at the QB position, but it’s still unknown whether Boswell will be back to full health. The senior played just one defensive series and none on offense against the Colonels after suffering an ankle injury the previous week.

Even with two weeks between games (and three weeks since the injury occurred), it’s not a guarantee that Boswell plays much Friday.

“He’s not as well off as he would like to be or we would like him to be,” Bishop said of Boswell. “… He’s serviceable, but he’s not 100 percent by any means.”

He added, “We don’t know how much or what his role is going to be come Friday night. It will literally be just like it was at Cass. He’ll go through warmups, and then we’ll decide what his role will be.”

If Boswell is limited, the onus will once again be on Simmons to guide the Adairsville offense. He had two outstanding possessions against Cass, but the rest of the time, the Tigers struggled to sustain drives.

The hope is that Simmons has learned some important lessons from his first varsity start at quarterback.

“His growth is hopefully going to come from the film work we’ve done with him after the Cass game,” Bishop said of the junior signal-caller. “Him learning from the mistakes he made in his reads in the passing game and in the option game. Hopefully, those reads will be a lot better, there will be a lot fewer misreads and his performance will accelerate to where he wants it to be and where we want and need it to be.”

Bishop believes the lumps taken last week — by Simmons and the team, as a whole — will pay off for the Tigers this week and moving forward. He also thinks the work his players put in throughout the open week will benefit them, as well.

“Last week was tough on our kids, and that was by design,” Bishop said. “We’ve had to get some things fixed. Practiced with an intensity we hadn’t really practiced with up until last week. … It’s not like we dealt with the same problems from Game 1 to Game 2. It was kind of a whole different set of problems.”

For Adairsville to accomplish its goals this year, those problems will need to be corrected in the coming weeks. Friday offers a first look at whether the Tigers can develop into the type of team that can nail down a playoff berth and compete for a home playoff game.

A victory — by any means — would be a welcome start to the region portion of the schedule.

“You definitely want to start region play off with a win,” Bishop said. “That’s everyone’s intentions. I think it’s important to us, especially, because we’ve been kind of inconsistent in our performance. … It will be important for us to find some kind of rhythm and consistency, especially on offense this Friday.”