Both teams opened their season with victories and head coach Frank Barden said the 57-20 beating Darlington (1-0 overall and 0-0 in 6-A and currently ranked No. 7 in the GACA Coaches Football Poll) put on Sonoraville last week shows it has firepower.
He said a key reason is the experience it returns in the skill positions, starting with its quarterback, Brad Butler.
"A lot of the players are back from a team that went to the state semifinals last year," Barden said. 'They are returning their quarterback, running back, receivers and defensive backs."
That combination proved potent against Sonoraville, as the Tigers jumped out to a 29-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, led by a 98-yard score by Tev'n Hamilton, who took the opening kickoff to the house. The Tigers had 43 points on the scoreboard -- with some scores coming by the defense -- before the Phoenix found the end zone.
Cedric Spivey, a Tiger star running back, had a big game, as did Butler, their quarterback.
"They got a lot of points against Sonoraville and are coming off a year where when they advanced to the state semifinals," Barden said. "We know it will be a big challenge for us going there and playing."
He said coach Tommy Atha's Tigers know their offensive roles.
"They run wing T and the quarterback (Butler) is back," he said. "They do a good job and have for years. Offensively they are good at what they do. The kids are smart and they play hard. They are very well coached."
Barden said the success of the Canes (1-0 and 0-0 in 7B-AAA) will depend on them doing their best each game.
"The key for us is to keep playing hard and competing," he said. "I thought we played with a lot of heart Friday night. Now we must go on the road and do that, too. We have to make sure we prepare to give ourselves a chance to win the game."
He said it takes a team effort for the Canes to win.
"We've got a good group of kids, but we don't have any super stars," he said. "We have to play with a lot of heart and character and we have to play hard."
Barden said the season will be about improving each game.
"We will get to where our chemistry gets better," he said. "Offensively and defensively we have to execute. We don't have individual players who can do a lot of special things on their own. We have to do it as a team."
Barden said the team got a good start to the year with its defeat of Pepperell, which was highly regarded.
"Trey Graves, our returning starter at quarterback, managed the game well for us. His job is to manage the game and gets us going us in the right direction," he said.
Graves was 3-11 for 22 yards on the night and had 15 carries for 82 yards.
Barden said the Canes running attack is by committee. "We have to keep our runners rested - some play on defensive side of the ball-- and fresh."
Against Pepperell, Jamie Jackson led the Canes with 11 carries and 87 yards, a big part of the 166 yards they gained on the ground.
Barden said a lot of Canes are getting playing time.
"We've put a lot of people in and out with the injuries and such that we've had," he said.
Today's matchup also should renew a tradition of hard-fought games with the Floyd County neighbor.
"We've played Darlington off and on for a long time," Barden said. "It's been a long standing series, with some great games dating back to the 1980s and 1990s. One thing it has always been is a great matchup for us with a lot of great games."
Barden said although the region wars are about to heat up, that is not where Cartersville's concern is.
"Right now we are just focused on Darlington and trying to make this game a positive for us and to have the team make a step forward in getting better this season," he said.
The game starts at 7:30 p.m.