In addition, the game will feature firsts for each program.
For the Colonels, tonight marks the inaugural football game for their new home, Doug Cochran Stadium in White.
“This is the first time there will be a football game played in it. I wish Doug was here to see it. He wanted to live long enough to see it,” Cass coach Rick Casko said of the stadium’s namesake, a former Colonels head coach who died in April at the age of 67. “He’s just such a great man and a great Cass Colonel. … The spirit of Doug Cochran lives on. He’s a great, great man. … Cass is blessed to have him. We believe he’s in a better place and he’s looking down on us and rooting for his Colonels.”
Cochran’s name has been on the scoreboard since the stadium was completed last year, and there will not be a revealing of a new sign or anything like that.
“Obviously, the name has been there already, so there’s no unveiling,” Casko added.
The Colonels will be honoring Cochran prior to the football game and even into the first play of the contest.
“He signed a football, and we’re gonna try to get an opening play with the football and get it out to his wife,” Casko said.
While those ceremonies are going on, Wildcats coach Vince DiLorenzo will be gearing up for the start of a new era of Woodland football as he begins his tenure with the team.
“I really kind of consider last week with Cartersville the first game where I was on the field,” said DiLorenzo, a three-time state champion coach in Alabama who came over from Coosa Valley to replace former Wildcats coach Steve Hamilton, who resigned and later accepted the head coaching job at Elk River (Minn.) High.
“I’m glad that we did that last week because I saw some things I did not expect,” DiLorenzo added of last week’s home scrimmage with the Purple Hurricanes. “Kicking-game wise, I think we were not as organized as we should have been, as far as getting our kicking teams together, knowing who was out … and getting his replacement in for him. … I think we’ll be a lot more prepared going into the Cass game.”
Casko, in his ninth year as head coach, has led Cass to five wins in his six games in the series — including a 42-12 victory in last year’s opener — but he noted his team will face a different Wildcats team this season.
“They’ve actually changed around what they’re doing,” he said of Woodland’s switch from a run-heavy T-formation to this year’s pass-reliant spread attack. “We’ve got to be prepared to defend it.”
Though the Colonels return just two starters from last year’s defense — linebacker Ronnie LaFollette and defensive lineman Max Smith — Cass fared well in last Friday’s scrimmage at Adairsville, holding the Tigers to 7 points while both schools’ first teams were on the field in the first half.
Offensively, however, the Colonels must limit mistakes.
“We’re gonna have to go out there and execute. We made some mistakes in the Adairsville scrimmage,” said Casko, whose team lost two of their four fumbles. “You gotta really eliminate mistakes and penalties.”
The Wildcats look to sharpen their performance from last week’s scrimmage vs. Cartersville. It fumbled on its first two possessions before scoring on a touchdown pass late in the first half.
“Offensively … the things that [happened] … helped us understand who the playmakers were, who the guys that would hustle every play were,” DiLorenzo said. “A real positive was the play of our defense. … We had a couple of turnovers deep in our territory and they had to force Cartersville to kick a field goal, and they did.”
After a month chalk full of practices, the season’s first game will be welcomed by many.
“I think it will be a really good game. I’m looking forward to it,” DiLorenzo said. “We’ll be able to measure ourselves and see whether Woodland football has continued to improve and progress. That’s what these games are all about. I’m excited.”
“They’re working extremely hard and they’re excited,” Casko said of his players. “It’s like anything, you practice long enough [and then] you just want to play. … There’s a lot of excitement with the new facility. The kids are excited about playing in there [for the first time] and representing Cass.
“It’s a beautiful facility. People will be glad to come see it.”
Tonight’s game begins at 7:30, with ceremonies honoring Cochran scheduled to precede the Colonels’ home opener.
The game will be a Region 7-AAAA matchup for both teams, who play 10 region games each, as they did last year.