After trekking 100-plus miles each way for its 21-3 win at Banks County, Adairsville heads south tonight for a nearly 500-mile roundtrip to Fitzgerald.
“We’re not really dreading it,” Tigers coach Jim Kremer said of the impending trip. “We’re gonna make it as nice as possible and our Tiger club and [Principal] Mr. [Bruce] Mulkey, our administration, we’re gonna go down in nice charter buses for the football team and band, and we’re gonna go down there and represent Adairsville High School. It’s kind of exciting. I think some of our kids have never even been south of Atlanta.
“As far as playing the game, I know our kids will be rested.”
When the Tigers get off their charter buses, awaiting them will be Class AA’s third-ranked Purple Hurricanes, a team many predict to prevail in the battle of 10-1 teams. Fitzgerald was a 41-14 winner last week over McIntosh County Academy.
“We’re gonna have to absolutely play our best game. Fitzgerald’s a very good football team. They’ve beaten some really good football teams this year. We’re obviously gonna have to keep the turnovers at a minimum,” Kremer said of tonight’s opponent, which beat Region 1-AA rival and No. 9-ranked Brooks County 39-0 earlier this season.
The Hurricanes enter the game averaging 35 points per game while giving up 17 per contest. Adairsville yields 12 ppg and scores at 24 ppg clip.
“I think our defense really matches up with theirs,” Kremer said. “Their offense is very explosive. We’re gonna have to consume some clock and they’re gonna have to make some mistakes.”
Against Banks County, the Tigers’ first offensive drive was a thing of beauty as they marched 69 yards in five plays to go up 7-0.
“I was pleased with that and it’s just a couple of little things that we needed to do to get things going again. I thought the kids were playing hard, but we had some missed assignments,” said Kremer, whose team drove the ball downfield in similar fashion on its next drive before fumbling away possession.
“We had an opportunity with that other turnover [an interception by Adairsville’s Kaylon Carter], if we just take care of business, to really [blow the game open],” the third-year Tigers coach continued. “I guess our guys like to see me get all swelled up and bothered.”
Coming out of the locker room, Kremer said his team played well as it notched scores on its first two second-half drives. “I don’t think Banks County even got a first down in the second half,” he added of Adairsville’s defensive performance.
While chatter leading up to last week’s game focused on the margin of victory for the Tigers, this week’s talk has been a trip to the other end of the spectrum.
“Now we’re turning around and hearing [about] how bad we’re gonna get beat by Fitzgerald. I’m kind of interested to see how we respond to that,” Kremer said.
If Adairsville does two things, its coach will be happy with the outcome, no matter what.
“We want to hit ’em and we want to play with class,” said Kremer, who wants to make the game a physical battle. “We haven’t reached [our potential] yet and I think we got another week to keep climbing to get there. The biggest thing [is] we gotta look ’em dead in the eye and say, ‘Alright, we didn’t come here to mess around.’ We gotta hit, line up correctly … All the things we’ve been working on have to come together this [game].”
Kremer noted his players, taking part in the school’s first playoffs since 2003, are aware of the past success of the Hurricanes, who have at least made it to the second round of the playoffs 11 of the last 12 seasons.
“They know we’re playing a good team. They know all about Fitzgerald [and its history]. It’s 2011 and those kids down there put their pants on one leg at a time like we do,” he said. “We got some good players. They’re probably a little faster than we are. This is one of those games as far as pressure and all that, I don’t see where it is.
“It’s one of those games that everybody thinks they’re gonna beat us and we’re gonna try to make it a great experience. … We’re gonna go down there and try to shock the state,” Kremer continued. “I’ve told them [Adairsville players] stories about my past and I’ve seen greater things happen.”
Adairsville, Region 7-AA’s No. 3 seed, and Fitzgerald, the No. 1 seed out of its region, are scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. for tonight’s second-round matchup. The winner would move on to play either Carver-Columbus or Laney in next week’s quarterfinals.