The playoffs are now seemingly out of reach, so the Colonels will have to dig deep to find motivation to win their region game Friday as they go on the road to face River Ridge High.
“It was a tough one for us last Friday [against Gilmer]. It was a big one to keep our playoff hopes alive, but we need to come back this week and play hard and eliminate mistakes,” head coach Rick Casko said. “Now it’s more of a pride thing. We’ve got to go out and win football games when the playoffs don’t look like they’re in the picture anymore.”
Cass will play an opponent with a losing record for just the second time this season. This will come as a welcomed relief for the Colonels who have dealt with a difficult schedule the past four weeks. River Ridge has a 1-5 record and are 0-1 in the region. The five teams Cass has lost to have a combined record of 24-6.
“If you look at the records of the teams we played, they’re good teams,” Casko said. “Other than the second half of the Cartersville game, the kids have continued to compete and have been in every game.”
It is especially important for Cass not to turn the ball over, something the squad has struggled with recently. The Colonels have 16 turnovers in their last four games, all resulting in losses.
“A couple of turnovers at the wrong time by kids who hadn’t turned the ball over. It’s different kids and it’s just mistakes in the wrong places at the wrong time,” Casko said. “This is a week where we have to get off to a good start and we’ve got to protect the football.”
One important piece who will return to the field Friday is junior standout Aja Morris. Morris missed the game against Gilmer and his presence should provide a boost to the Colonels’ defensive line.
The character of Morris and the rest of the Cass players will be put to the test Friday, knowing they are no longer vying for a playoff position. Casko believes his team will respond well to the challenge.
“It’s a test for the players. We’re keeping positive and the coaches are coaching their tails off and we’re working hard at it,” Casko said. “I really believe our kids are going to give their best effort. It’s a competition. We have a war on Friday and we have to step up and win the battle.
“The seniors need to go out there and play hard for each other and I think they will. Right now, it’s all about strapping it up and seeing how hard can you play.”
With 7-0 Cedartown awaiting the Colonels on Oct. 25, it will be important for Cass to attain a victory heading into the matchup. The team would still like to send its 18 seniors off with as many wins as possible.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. The seniors want to get more wins under their belt and every game is important. But this game, this week, is our most important,” Casko said. “The seniors don’t get to do this again, so they have to leave it all on the field.”
The goal was not to win as many games as possible to begin the season, it was to make the state playoffs. The goals have been adjusted, and naturally, there is some disappointment.
“It wasn’t what we were looking to do this year, so that’s natural,” Casko said of his players possibly being disappointed with the season. “We had good expectations this year. We thought we could be very competitive and we’re playing good football teams. The kids don’t understand that.”
The final games in the 2013 season will give Cass a chance to develop some players for the future, and bring some momentum into spring practice and the 2014 season.
“I thought Trevor Lowe played better. He’s getting more experienced and I think he’ll play better this week,” Casko said of his freshman quarterback. “The young guys have to play hard, too. It’s a chance for them and everybody to get better for next season.”