Just as well, the Tigers — coming off a narrow escape at Model — could muddle up their chances for the No. 2 seed in the sub-region with a loss to the Yellow Jackets, who lost last Friday at Armuchee, 42-18.
Were Adairsville to lose against Rockmart, and the aforementioned Indians defeat Coosa, three teams would be tied for second place — leading to a tiebreaker scenario. The Tigers hold the edge against Armuchee, who they beat 47-20 Oct. 7, and would likely still be in line to make the playoffs the following week in a crossover game with a Region 7B-AA team.
While third-year Adairsville coach Jim Kremer is well aware of all the possibilities stemming from Friday night’s matchup, he isn’t apt to pay much attention to them. Besides, there are other big story lines at play.
“It’s senior night. Regardless [of if or] when we go to the playoffs, we’re gonna go on the road and this could be their last time playing on their field,” Kremer said of this team, which has 20-plus seniors. “[We’re] trying to take a lot off them. We built that [Pepperell] game to be the game of the year — not me, but people in general. … I’ve been trying to be a little low key in saying, ‘Look, this is our next game and all we can control is us getting better and staying positive.’
“All the summer work … is coming down to the next couple of weeks for these seniors, and, basically, that’s what we’ve been talking about and they know that.”
Last week in a 28-14 victory over the Blue Devils that was closer than expected — for everyone other than Kremer, maybe — the Tigers completed their mission, which was to win. But the manner in which they did so may have given some followers reason for pause.
Adairsville was neck and neck with a one-win team for three and a half quarters before touchdowns from quarterback Cody Kremer and Mike Upshaw put Model away in the final few minutes.
Almost a week later, the Tigers seem ready to put together the type of performance fans have come to expect this season, and it’s partly up to the coaching staff to ensure that.
“We gotta put our kids in position to be successful and it’s a two-way street,” he said. “[We have to] open it up a little bit more. A lot of people, going into that Model game, I don’t think they understood Model has played everybody close in the first half.
“We didn’t play that well against Model, but also give Model some credit, they played hard. Both teams played hard.”
In the second half, the Tigers clinched the game, something they have been adept at doing this season.
“Out of seven [wins], we’ve won three in the fourth quarter,” Kremer said of his team’s ability to finish.
Despite some struggles throughout the game, there were plenty of positives from last week for Adairsville to look to. The team’s defense, its calling card all yearlong, returned to form after surrendering a season-high in points in a loss to Pepperell Oct. 14.
The Tigers recovered three fumbles, including Austin Moore’s strip of Blue Devil running back Chris Hill to set up the go-ahead touchdown.
“Defensively, we’ve been pretty consistent all year. I think we’re giving up 13.9 points per game, including the Pepperell game,” Kremer said. “We seem to give up one drive a game. Early in the season we were giving up about 7 points per game, and they all came on one drive. We have not given up too many big plays. We’ve kept everything in front of us.”
And the Tigers, who were without their starting nose guard and middle linebacker in their loss to the Dragons, have been able to be develop more players on defense.
“We’ve kind of replenished our depth,” Kremer said.
Another good sign last week came on offense, where Adairsville scored three second-half touchdowns after taking a 7-6 lead into halftime. Tigers running back Upshaw had 20 of his 32 carries after the break and finished the night with three touchdowns and 218 yards — 153 coming in the second half. It was Upshaw’s second 200-yard rushing game following his 15-carry, 270-yard, four-touchdown effort vs. the Indians three weeks ago.
“We knew that if Mike could learn how to play the game, he’d be a good player. He’s always been swift and a real strong kid,” Kremer said. “Mike learned how to be a football player, not only with his abilities but [in] giving credit to other kids and not having a huge ego, and he’s turned into a really good team player for us.”
Adairsville has other options, though, and can deploy them if the defense opts to take Upshaw away.
“We are an option team. … A lot of times the defensive coordinator we’re playing against is gonna dictate who gets the ball. If they don’t squeeze, we give it to [Upshaw],” Kremer said. “We try to disperse [the ball around], but if they’re gonna give [us the option to run up the middle], we’re gonna take whatever they give us.”
But, he added, “For us to go as far as we want to, we need everybody.”
The Tigers also must continue to protect the ball.
“Our offense, at times, has shown tremendous promise,” Kremer continued. “We turned it over twice against Model, but this year our turnovers have gone down tremendously.”
Adairsville has turned the ball over around 12 times whereas last year “we turned it over 12 times in the first two games,” its coach said.
Much like the case last week, Kremer understands the difficulty that lies ahead in facing another sub-region opponent that appears to be down. The Yellow Jackets, who qualified for the playoffs as a No. 2 region seed in 2010, trailed just 14-12 at the half last week until Armuchee pulled away on the strength of four second-half scores.
“Rockmart is a very scary football team,” Kremer said. “I know what we’re going to get. We’re going to get a coached-up team ready to beat [us]. … We’re prepared for the best Rockmart team that we could possibly see. They got great athletes; they got some great players that we got to contain.”
Adairsville and Rockmart are scheduled to kick off Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The Tigers have a shot at taking an important step in rebuilding a program in disarray when Kremer inherited it. For that reason, Adairsville’s coach makes no apologies for building a team that doubles, and many times triples, the size of its opponents.
“The numbers were down three years ago here, too, and it took a lot for us to get our numbers back up. … You don’t want your numbers down, go get ’em,” Kremer said. “It takes a lot of work. A lot of credit needs to go to my staff.”
Plenty of credit will go to Kremer, his staff and many more if the Tigers are able to do something not in seen in their parts since 2003.