Cass football is very aware of what it will be up against Friday night when it takes on Rome on the road.
“[They are] extremely talented everywhere,” head coach Bobby Hughes said. “There is not a weakness. Their starting lineup is littered with Division-I players.”
Holding an 18-game win streak, the reigning Class 5A champion Wolves enter this game undefeated, a refraction of Cass, who, despite remaining competitive in most of its games this year, is winless in all six.
Rome has wins this year over Kell and a Justin Fields-led Harrison team, and is ranked No. 1 in most of the Class 5A state rankings.
The defining characteristic of the Wolves is their defensive front, which features four D-I D-linemen. It starts with defensive end Adam Anderson, a 2016 AJC Super 11 player with offers from almost every major school around the South. Anderson sits at 6-foot-4, 214 pounds, and is a matchup nightmare for offenses. That is multiplied given who he lines up next two. T.J. Cammack is a Navy commit. Jamarcus Chatman, a three-star defensive tackle, is a Tennessee commit. But the player that stands out most to Hughes is Ja’Quon
Griffin, a 6-foot, 260-pound LSU commit.
“[He] is the straw that makes them go,” Hughes said. “We’re going to have to be solid in our run game.”
On offense, the Wolves feature a talented backfield of Jalynn Sykes and Jamious Griffin. Sykes, a senior, is listed as a 3-star by 247Sports and has offers from several major college programs, including Michigan State, Ole Miss and Tennessee, with other schools in the mix. Griffin, a junior, has offers from Ole Miss, South Carolina, North Carolina State and Cincinatti, among others.
Handing the ball off to the two is Knox Kadum, a talented junior quarterback who has drawn some interest from Alabama and Georgia. Hughes pointed to Kadum’s ability on the read option as a big focal point for his defense as it tries to focus in on the Rome tailbacks.
Rome has talent on offense all around — Xavier Rhodes is another name at wide receiver to look out for. The Wolves have scored 40 or more points in their last five games. If Cass wants to compete, they’ll need to put up points.
But for as much talent as Rome might have under center, defense is where it really has the edge over most teams. Rome has nine players named first team All-State in 2016, and returned seven of them in 2017. Its kicker, Emanuel Gonzalez, was one of those players, a further testament to the Wolves’ depth.
Cass has not beaten Rome since 2014, which was the year before head coach John Reid took over. Since then, Rome is 27-6.
That 2014 win was Cass’ only win in the history of the matchup, as Rome is 6-1 overall against the Colonels.
Despite its misfortune, Cass remains upbeat. As it prepares for its most formidable opponent thus far, the Colonels hope to channel some of the pent up angst about how this season has gone into something positive.
“They’re frustrated,” Hughes said. “Because we’ve been so close. But yet, [the team is] still battling.”