Adairsville, 1-1, faces a Dragon team that has started off its season with two losses.
Head coach Eric Bishop said his Tigers know that record will mean nothing when the two teams hook up.
“Everyone here knows that records in this game won’t mean anything,” he said. “This series goes back a long way, and I believe it’s going to be a shootout again.
“I’ve told our kids it’s going to take 48 minutes of the best we’ve got, and that’s no exaggeration there. They’re that good, and we’re going to have to be that good. We’re going to have to match their physicalness and their intensity for 48 minutes.
“I feel like this will be sort of like our Cass game in that it’s not going to be a runaway and probably will come down to the last few minutes to see who wins.”
Even the Dragons record, 0-2, may not be a true indicator of how good they are and will play because those losses came against Northwest Whitfield and Cedartown, both rated among the top five teams in northwest Georgia.
Still, Bishop said the Tigers are not focusing on other teams at this stage of their season.
“This season our challenge, our focus and goal,” he said, “has been to get better each week. We pretty much have a checklist of things we want to get better at each week. We clearly did that from our Cass game to Armuchee.
“We feel if we stay focused on the things we control, that is getting better at what we do each week, we will continue to see our kids mature and get better.”
The Tigers fell 23-14 at Cass, then responded to the adversity by steamrolling Armuchee the following week with 300 rushing yards in a 38-7 beatdown.
Bishop said one reason the Tigers improved is because of the experience they have gained with two full games under their belt.
“To start this season, we pretty much had six players on each side of the ball who did not have a full season of experience. Some did not have even a full game of experience, but we have been seeing them grow up over the last two weeks. We are hoping to keep building on that and to get better at what we do defensively and offensively.”
The Dragons have not been scoring a lot but have pushed the ball downfield, Bishop said, and their offense is a force the Tigers must contend with.
“We feel against Pepperell we have to have a bend-but-don’t-break attitude,” he said. “Pepperell has been driving the ball so far this season but it hasn’t been scoring.”
“They had 300 yards rushing against Northwest Whitfield but one thing or another stopped their drives. We hopefully will be able to bend but not break and find a way somehow to get the football back without them scoring.”
That means the Tigers can expect some old-fashioned, smashmouth football when the Dragons line up to play.
That’s not the only thing that will be old-fashioned about the Dragons.
“They’re pretty much a jet sweep-type offense,” Bishop said. “They run a lot of that and trap plays. They run a combination of plays you don’t see much in this area in this day and time. They will grind it out.
“They have another bunch of those big offensive linemen they always have who try to mash you, mash you, mash you. We’ll try to do something to disrupt what they do, try to get their timing off, do some things hopefully defensively to put them in a bind and try to get them out of their smashmouth football game.”
Leading the Tigers this season have been some familiar faces, starting with quarterback Marcus Childers and running backs Austin Harris and Sidnee Johnson. The Tigers also are getting a boost from Dakota Hines, their thunder-footed kicker and field goal specialist, and the defensive play of such athletes as Trey Lloyd, who pounced on a big fumble by the Indians in their game.
Bishop believes the key to the Tigers emerging with a victory Friday night lies with them doing well in their kicking game and holding mistakes to a minimum.
“We have to win the kicking game,” he said. “Outside of some work we need to do on our punt returns, we feel we are good enough to win the kicking game each week and we have to do that.
“Offensively we have to minimize the mistakes we make. We’ve told our players we have to have near flawless execution for 48 minutes against Pepperell.”
The Dragons will mark the final non-region contest for Adairsville. On Sept. 20 the Tigers begin their play in Region 5-AAA against Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, the first of seven consecutive region opponents.
The Tigers are averaging 26 points per game while allowing 15 points per contest.
Pepperell has scored 14 points per evening while giving up 35 points.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.