The Cass High football team is in a little different scenario than the other three Bartow County football teams. The Colonels start the regular season on Aug. 24, a week later than most teams around the state, meaning the regular season isn't quite as imminent.
That hasn't quelled Cass' excitement this week, though, as the Colonels prepare to get in front of a crowd under the lights for the first time in 2018 against Pepperell tonight.
The scrimmage will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Doug Cochran Stadium.
"You're always excited to play somebody different than yourselves," Cass head coach Bobby Hughes said. "I think, the way it works out this year, it's kind of exciting. We [started school Wednesday] and have a home game Friday, so the kids will be in school three days. Hopefully, we'll have a good crowd for a scrimmage and the weather will hold off."
Cass has the luxury of using two weeks of practice after tonight's scrimmage to prepare for the season, which is critical considering the team has only had a few practice days in pads so far this year.
With the regular season still two weeks away, the Colonels are still hammering home the fundamentals, and didn't spend the usual amount of time preparing for an opponent like they will when the regular season arrives.
"We're more working the fundamentals for Game 1, but we'll sprinkle in a little bit of stuff that Pepperell does to give us an idea," Hughes said of the scrimmage preparation. "We can't get away from the fundamentals of the daily things like blocking and tackling."
Hughes said Pepperell, always a physical opponent, will be a good tune-up for the regular season given the Colonels are in a highly competitive and physical region. The Dragons are a regular playoff team in Class 2A, and have gone 18-6 the past two seasons.
Pepperell did graduate its quarterback, standout running back and top two receiving threats from last year, but Cass worked against the Dragons this summer and Hughes said there are plenty of athletes to step up and keep Pepperell competitive.
"Their quarterback this year is a kid we saw in baseball, and he's a very good athlete," Hughes said. "We saw them at camp. We threw at their place earlier in the summer, so we got a look at some of their skill kids. They've always been really good up front on both sides of the ball. We anticipate that. That's an area we've improved in offensively is up front, so that'll be good for us to be able to gauge."
Hughes added that his team has "good, healthy" competition all over the field, and tonight's scrimmage will be an opportunity to evaluate some of those players. The offense, which struggled at times last year, has a new offensive coordinator in Brandon Haywood and key returners at quarterback and running back. As a result, the Colonels hope improvement is evident tonight.
Coming off a winless season, but one in which Cass was competitive in games against quality opponents, even minor improvements could make a major difference.
"The stuff that we feel we've improved on, we're anxious to see how that looks or how far we've come along. We feel good about what we've done since spring football and we want to see how that plays out," Hughes said. "And you just want to get it on film. You know you're going to make mistakes and you know you're going to make some plays. [In last year's scrimmage against Pepperell], when we put the JV in, it was a 7-0 ballgame at the end of the first half. And that's kind of what we went through last year. We're competitive, we just need to find a way to get over the hump and make a few more plays."