There will be plenty of motivation on both sides of Friday night’s Region 7-AAAAA matchup between Cass and Villa Rica.
Each team enters the game with a 1-2 overall mark and an 0-1 record in region play. Last week, the Colonels dropped a winnable game against Woodland, while the Wildcats, who will host Friday night’s contest, suffered an embarrassing, 52-3 defeat against Carrollton.
"We're sitting in the same situation," Cass head coach Bobby Hughes said. "They played a really good Carrollton team last week. Carrollton caught all the breaks early and took advantage of them. You look at the preseason stuff, Villa Rica was a playoff [contender]. It's a good football team coach [Rico] Zackery has over there. ... They're looking to right the ship in a hurry."
As for Cass, the Colonels feel like they are improving despite two straight losses.
"We played really, really hard against a really good team from Woodland, so we feel like we're building in the right direction."
In that regard, Villa Rica would probably say it has more to prove, especially since the Wildcats would fancy themselves a playoff-caliber team. However, Cass has the added push of last year’s 42-7 blowout loss to Villa Rica — one of the only lopsided results for an incredibly competitive Colonel team in 2017.
Speaking of that competitive nature, if it weren’t for a few plays here and there, it’s entirely possible Cass could be entering this game undefeated. The Colonels have been close in every game, so far, pulling out a win over Adairsville before two-score losses to Forysth Central and Woodland.
Those two defeats could have easily gone Cass’ way. The former turned on a couple of missed opportunities in the passing game, and the latter slowly slipped away after the Colonels wasted a pair of first-half possessions inside the 10-yard line.
"We didn't harp too much. A lot of times you don't have to state the obvious," Hughes said of this week of practice. "We turned the ball over twice inside the 10-yard line. That will get you beat almost every Friday night. We talked about being our own worst enemy."
On the positive side, the losses have not been for a lack of effort. The Cass defense, in particular, has left everything it had on the field the past two weeks.
The Colonels will need a strong defensive performance to hold down the Wildcats. But, as always, it will take an opportunistic offense to see Cass get back in the win column.
Depending on what projections you believe, Cass either enters the game as favorites or underdogs. Calpreps.com have the Colonels winning by four points on a neutral site, and Maxwell has the Wildcats as 12-point favorites. Villa Rica being at home would seem to give the Wildcats the slight advantage.
Regardless of forecasting, the formula for Colonel wins is pretty simple.
Offensively, the team needs to establish the run, chew up clock, open up the passing game and, most importantly, finish off drives in the end zone. Defensively, Cass has to limit explosive plays, get off the field on third down and create turnovers. On special teams, the Colonels can’t turn the ball over, shank punts or miss field goals — all of which happened last week.
It’s asking a lot to be good in all of those areas. But despite the marked improvement in a lot of areas this season, the Colonels still have a small margin for error.
A clean game from Cass should keep things close into the fourth quarter, and if the Colonels have a chance late to steal a road win, they couldn’t ask for much more than that.
"Our margin for error, it's paper thin," Hughes said. "We can't put ourselves in that situation and continue to expect to give yourself a chance to win."