Tigers, 'Cats kick off Bartow football season in tonight's scrimmage

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Bartow County was so excited for football season, the scrimmage between Adairsville and Woodland was moved up a day to lessen the wait.

Well, actually, a shortage of officials necessitated the move away from its scheduled Friday kickoff, but Bartow football fans aren't complaining about having to wait 24 less hours for the long-anticiapted arrival of high school football.

The Adairsville and Woodland coaches, always sticklers for maintaining a routine for their teams, say the schedule change is just one of the many adjustments their players will have to adapt to over the course of the season.

"You have to deal with a lot of obstacles like this throughout the year, so this is just the first of many," Adairsville head coach Eric Bishop said. "But I felt like, in talking with [Woodland athletic director John] Howard and [Woodland head football coach Tony] Plott, Thursday was the better scenario for us [versus Saturday], because I didn't want to interrupt our game-week schedule leading into Chattooga next week."

The schedule change from Friday to Thursday has meant the Tigers and Wildcats have altered the practice week heading into today's 7:30 p.m. game at Wildcat Stadium.

“It takes away how much physical work we can put in, because you don’t want them to be tired [today],” Plott said. “We had to alter our schedule, our plan for what we had in there. It does take away the preparation a little bit and the live hitting that we would do.”

Today's scrimmage will not count on the respective teams' records, and there will not be any live special teams. Offenses will start on their own 30-yard lines, and the starters are only expected to play in the first half and maybe a series into the third quarter.

Still, there are Bartow County bragging rights on the line.

"You want to find some way to keep these intracounty rivalries alive," Bishop said of scheduling Woodland for its scrimmage. "We weren't able to do it in the regular season."

The scrimmage is a key tool for the coaching staffs to help settle position battles and to experiment with different personnel groups. The position that's always the most intriguing is quarterback, and both Adairsville and Woodland will show off new signal-callers tonight.

Woodland will start promising sophomore Jakob Foss, but Plott added, “If it’s obvious we need to make a change, at any point during a game, we’ll make a change. We have a plan with that also, and we’ll stick to it.”

Bishop said returning starter Mason Boswell will definitely start at his normal safety position on defense. Whether he also starts at quarterback could depend on if Adairsville gets the ball to start the game. Regardless, junior Derrick Simmons is going to see snaps at quarterback and in the slot, and Boswell will move to running back when Simmons is behind center.

The quarterback position isn't the only one the coaches want to evaluate on film, though. In fact, Bishop used the word evaluate three times in succession when asked what the importance of the scrimmage was for his team.

"The biggest thing we're going to do is evaluate, evaluate, evaluate," Bishop said. "We've talked as a coaching staff about playing out a whole bunch of different scenarios. We've talked about kids playing multiple different positions, find the best fit of 11 players for offense and defense and try to create and develop as much depth as we can."

Plott echoed Bishop's sentiment about finding depth at certain positions, but both coaches are happy with how their teams have already progressed to this point. 

"We're ahead with installs with regards to offense and defense," Bishop said. "I feel like this team has progressed a little bit faster throughout the learning curve than some of our teams in the past."

"I think we’ve had a good summer,” Plott said. “We’ve had a high rate of attendance, the kids have worked hard. Moving the game from Friday to Thursday, it takes one day of our preparation, so that’s going to bother us a little bit. But I think we’re prepared. I think our kids are ready to play and ready to get the season started.”