Having Mason Boswell back in the fold made a tangible difference for the Adairsville offense last Friday.
The senior stalwart helped the Tigers put up 41 points in a Region 6-AAA victory over Coahulla Creek. It was a vastly improved offensive effort than Adairsville showed in its previous game — a 19-10 loss to Cass.
While the Colonels get some credit for the Tigers’ struggles that night, the absence of Boswell changed everything about what Adairsville does on the offensive side of the ball.
However, the presence of Boswell doesn’t just make the offensive better and more explosive. He also has the ability to serve as a calming influence for a still relatively inexperienced team.
“You can obviously tell there’s a little more giddy-up in our step as Mason takes the field with our offense,” Adairsville head coach Eric Bishop said. “Obviously, our whole team, offensively and defensively, has a great deal of confidence in him and what he can do.”
With Boswell continuing to work his way back to 100 percent, the Tigers’ next challenge will come in the form of a trip to Haralson County this Friday. Although Adairsville (2-1, 1-0) opened up region play last week, the game will serve as the region opener for Haralson (2-0).
Adairsville has a 5-1 all-time record against Haralson, including winning the last four. The last two wins for the Tigers against the Rebels each of the past two years has set up a play-in game for a state-playoff berth.
This year, Haralson has defeated two non-region foes from Region 7-AA to begin the season. Haralson has scored 35 points in each of those two wins, while giving up a total of seven.
It’s no secret what the Rebels like to do offensively: run the football.
“They’re kind of in a league all their own in terms of what they do offensively,” Bishop said. “It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen anybody be so simple and straight-forward, smash-mouth football that they like to play.
“They really only line up in two formations, and if you want to call it one formation, they just flip it right and left. … It’s a single-wing offense that most people haven’t seen in a long, long time.”
According to Bishop, Haralson has attempted just four passes combined in its two games. Now, it’s likely the team would have passed the ball more had it been in catch-up mode. That wasn’t the case, so no reason to go away from what’s worked.
While the Rebels have multiple backs who gave Gordon Central and Armuchee fits, Treylon Sheppard, in particular, has been the star of the show. The senior back has broken the school record for single-game rushing yards in each outing this year.
He rushed for 279 yards, four touchdowns and two 2-pt conversions in Week 1. The then-record lasted just one game, as Sheppard put up 290 yards on Aug. 31. He added two touchdowns. Overall, he’s carried the ball 53 times for an outstanding 10.74 yards per carry.
“He’s a back to be reckoned with and we’re certainly going to have to be sure to try to contain him as much as he can,” Bishop said.
Not to take away from Sheppard’s obvious talent, it’s clear that he has benefitted from an impressive offensive line. Bishop said three of the linemen likely top 280 pounds.
“This may be the biggest offensive line we’ve faced thus far,” he said. “… It’s going to be a must that we play well up front, that we keep contain and we don’t let anybody get outside of us.”
As is the case with any good offense, the key is to keep them off the field as much as possible. The fewer chances the team gets, the fewer points it can score and the fresher the defense can remain.
It means the Tigers will need to continue the offensive success they had last week. In particular, it will be paramount for Adairsville to get out to a lead to force Haralson into abandoning the run.
“Really, what you want to do against this team is try to get a lead and get them out of what they feel comfortable with,” Bishop said. “We talked to our kids the other day about how important it will be to get off to a good start. Whether we do or don’t get that two-possession lead, we’re going to have to match them each time they score.”
Not only will having Boswell back make that easier, but also the weekly progression Derrick Simmons has been making, as both players split reps at quarterback. With injuries to T-back Landon Ayers and slotback Chris Rodriguez, it’s likely Boswell and Simmons will each be somewhere on the field for nearly every offensive snap.
Bishop said there weren’t any Haralson defensive players who really stuck out from watching the film. That’s not due to a lack of talent, but rather, an overall team scheme that emphasizes the importance of flowing to the football.
Haralson lines up in what has become an increasingly popular defensive formation — at least among Adairsville opponents. Although, the way the Rebels play could force the Tigers to utilize the passing game a bit more Friday night.
“We’re seeing the 3-3 stack for basically the fourth game in a row, or at least some version of it,” Bishop said. “Everybody plays it a little differently, and they have their own little twist they try to put on it. …
“We just kind of take what the defense gives us in terms of what we do on offense. Last week, we only threw the ball eight times. This week, you can probably expect to see us throw the ball a good bit more than we did last week.”
Despite the bounce-back win over Coahulla Creek and a chance to move to 2-0 in the region, Bishop knows his team still has a ways to go to reach its full potential.
It’s clear that a healthy Boswell put the Tigers a lot closer to that goal, but it’s going to take more than his Herculean efforts to get this team where it wants to be at the end of the regular season.
“I’m looking forward to the day when this group of kids come together and they play to the high level that we all believe they can,” Bishop said, “so that people can see and understand all the hard work that they’ve put in.”