It wasn’t until Eric Bishop turned the lights on at his team’s Monday practice that it hit his players that, after a year absence, playoff football is back in Adairsville.
Adjusting to daylight savings, Bishop illuminated Tiger Stadium halfway through Monday’s practice, and his players took a second to soak it all in.
“I flip the lights on and they go ‘Ohh, ohh,’” Bishop said. “I was like, ‘This is what playoff teams do, boys.’”
That moment was fleeting, as the Tigers have to prepare for defending state champion, Class 3A No. 1-ranked Cedar Grove, winners of 20 in a row and rich with Division-I talent.
The Saints have speed all over the field, and feature a few players that will be changing Georgia zip codes when they go to college. Receiver Jadon Haselwood is the No. 1-ranked receiver in the state for the Class of 2019, a five-star, 6-foot-2, 180-pound target. His classmate Rashad Cheney is a 6-foot-3, 270-pound, four-star defensive tackle who scored a touchdown a few weeks ago.
Those are the types of athletes Cedar Grove has — hybrids who can stack up against anyone and everyone.
Bishop believes, though, that his team can also compete with anyone in the state.
“We’re surely capable of playing as good as anybody in the state at times,” Bishop said. “We haven’t done that consistently enough. If we do that, we have a chance to be in the ballgame.”
Whether that happens may rest on the shoulders of quarterback Mason Boswell, who is coming off his best game of the season in a clincher against Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. Boswell’s continued development will likely need to reach its apex Friday night, as
Adairsville will need to be able to keep up with Cedar Grove’s prolific offense.
Adairsville is averaging a tick under 25 points a game, and Cedar Grove did not have a game this year in which it scored less than 28. “You’re not going to hold an offense like this down,” Bishop said. “[We have to] try to manage explosive plays. We’ll have to answer with big plays.”
Adairsville will have to perform on offense without perhaps its most important cog in offensive lineman Maddox Teems, a senior leader who was injured in last week’s game. He’ll be recovering from surgery the same day his team takes the field as he prepares to rehab an aversion fracture in his ankle and a broken leg.
It’s undoubtedly a significant loss for the Tigers — Teems is the anchor on the offensive line, and for a triple option-oriented offense like Adairsville’s, the offense begins and ends with blocking.
The team is already without one of its best defensive players, senior linebacker Dakota Hughes, who also broke his leg in the ninth game of the year.
It can’t be stressed enough — Cedar Grove scores in bunches and in a variety of ways. Bishop praised their ability to score on defense and special teams. It’s why the Saints’ lowest margin of victory so far this season is 21, and why they are defending state champions.
But Adairsville has thrived on outperforming expectations all year. Bishop sees no reason why this game can’t be any different.
“I feel like this team still really hasn’t reached its potential,” Bishop said. “And this Friday would be a great night to see that come to fruition.”