First-year Cass head coach Bobby Hughes has the unenviable task of game-planning for that speed as his Colonels take on the Canes today at Cartersville High.
“It’s always something that sticks out when you watch film on Cartersville. They always have a good amount of speed and this year is no different,” Hughes said. “This will be the second year in a row that we’ve played them over there and they’re very well coached and they’re good at what they do.
“You can simulate schemes, but you can’t simulate the game speed in the scout groups that the other team is going to bring to you.”
Running back Kalin Heath epitomizes that speed for Cartersville as he ran a 4.44 40-yard dash time at the Mississippi State Prospect Camp over the summer and ran for 712 yards and 11 yards per carry last season as a junior.
Another weapon emerged in Cartersville’s scrimmage against Woodland two weeks ago as junior Terrius Callahan caught five pass for 130 yards and two touchdowns while playing the first three quarters with the starters.
Because of the big-play ability Cartersville possesses, reducing big gains is something Hughes believes to be crucial in tonight’s game.
“Being able to establish a tempo on offense, and defensively, to limit big plays,” Hughes said when asked what the keys to the game were for the Colonels.
Meanwhile, Cartersville first-year head coach Joey King believes Cass’ size will provide an obstacle for his team.
“They’ve got guys on the line of scrimmage. They do a good job up front. They have a good running back and a good quarterback, so that’s a good tandem for them,” King said of Cass. “Defensively, they’re pretty sound in what they’re trying to accomplish out of that eight-man front, so we’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’re prepared for it and we’re looking forward to facing a fundamentally sound football team.
“[Cass head coach Bobby Hughes] does a good job over there. I know he’s trying to do things the right way and he’s a good ball coach.”
Cass’ top returners on offense include lineman Aja Morris, running back Keelyn Wilkey and slot receiver Chris Morton.
“They’re big and physical up front. They’ve got Aja Morris, who I coached in the [AT&T Rising Seniors.com Georgia Junior Bowl] last year. He’s real big and physical up front. He’s a great kid,” King said. “He got after us last year. Looking back at last year’s film, he was pretty physical then, so we have an idea of what to expect out of him, but they have some size up front and that’s something that we’ll have to deal with.”
Wilkey and Morton will help provide firepower offensively. Wilkey ran for 55 yards on eight carries in Cass’ preseason scrimmage against Adairsville. He ran for 128 yards on 21 carries and three touchdowns in last season’s opener against Adairsville.
Morton, meanwhile, is a big-play threat once he catches the ball and averaged 14 yards per catch last year. The quarterback throwing Morton the ball, sophomore Trevor Lowe, is now in his second season as a starter.
As for Cartersville’s signal-caller, King said he will continue to roll two quarterbacks like he did in his team’s scrimmage against Woodland. Junior Miller Forristall started and played the first two drives. Freshman Trevor Lawrence then played the next two and later alternated possessions.
“It will be the same way. We’re going to roll those guys and let them play,” King said of his quarterbacks. “If one develops the hot hand, then we’re going to let him play and stick with that guy.”
Hughes is not worried as much about having to gameplan for two quarterbacks as he is about trying to game-plan for two new quarterbacks.
“It’s maybe a little bit [difficult to game-plan for] because they’re two different guys, you don’t have a whole lot of film to be able to look at which one does better than that one,” Hughes said of Cartersville’s quarterback situation. “They have two good ones, so you try to prepare as well as you can with the limited amount of information you have.”
King said he wants to keep fresh bodies out on the field, regardless of if it’s at the quarterback position or another position. As a result, conditioning is something King has prioritized in the two weeks of practice leading up to Friday’s game as both Cass and Cartersville will operate out of the no-huddle offense.
“We’re just continuing to try and get in game shape. In the scrimmage, we only got three quarters in, so we’ve been hammering them in the weight room, doing a little extra conditioning and trying to keep practice as up-tempo and upbeat as possible,” King said. “We’re coaching on the run, flying around, just making sure we’re playing at a high pace once the lights come on. The guys’ adrenaline will start flowing and I want to make sure we don’t run out of gas early.”
Hughes also is looking forward to seeing how his team responds to the game environment.
“You want to see how this new young bunch that I have is going to compete,” Hughes said of what he hopes to find out about his team tonight. “We want to see how they’re going to compete as far as preparing for the region. You generally make your most improvement between the first game and the second game. When you play someone of Cartersville’s caliber in the first game, you hope to compete as well as I can hope. We’ve had a great summer and fall camp so far and they’ve bought into what we’re doing, so we expect to play well.”