The Warriors finished 8-2 overall and 6-1 in Region 7-AAA, where they finished second to Buford, a state power that earned a 10-0 overall record and 7-0 in its region.
Eric Bishop, head coach of the Tigers, said White County, which plays in Cleveland, is like Adairsville and has been to the big dance before.
“They went to the state playoffs last year like we did,” the coach said, “and return a lot of players with playoff experience.”
He said the two teams win differently, however.
“It’s kind of a clash of two philosophies,” he said. “They are a power and triple-option team while Adairsville is a kind of a spread- and triple-option combined.”
On the other side of the ball, he said, the Warriors, who averaged 21 points and allowed 12, have a different philosophy, too.
“They play out of the 50 front,” he said. “They have defensive ends who play with their hands on the ground. You don’t see a lot of that anymore. We’re really interested in seeing how they play defense. We’ll be faced with trying to decipher what they run and applying our rules. It’ll be a challenge for our offensive linemen and our running backs to see where they are and make sure we are following the right blocking rules.”
He said the Tigers, who finished the season at 7-3, 5-2 in Region 5-AAA, and scored an average of 30 points per Friday night while allowing 18 points, must constantly adjust to conditions and recognize and properly execute against what the Warriors are doing.
Some of the Warriors’ standouts are Dalton Whitfield, their starting fullback (24), and slotbacks Coley Loudermilk (23) and Maurice Sutton (25).
“Whitfield is a big strong kid, physical, and hard to bring down,” Bishop said.
He said the slotbacks are likely the two fastest players on their team and noted both contribute on both sides of the ball.
“Hopefully we can press the tempo and use some of our depth to kind of wear them down some.”
The coach also expects a challenge in special teams play.
“They have a tremendous kicker and punter,” he said. “It’s important that Manny Morales and Dakota Hines do their part to make sure we even out in that area so we can win on offense and defense.”
The Warriors don’t push the tempo like teams in Region 5-AAA.
“They don’t use the no-huddle [offense] like in this area,” Bishop said. “They use up a lot of clock with their ball control offense.
“It will be very important for us to try to get a lead early and force them into something they won’t like — a game of catchup.”
He said if that isn’t possible, the Tigers will try to stay close and bid for the lead late.
“The biggest thing is to understand the game is going to come down to the fourth quarter,” Bishop said. “They’ve won some big games and are conditioned. It’s up to us to establish a lead early and try to match their points after that. If we can’t, we need to stay close and try to win the ballgame in the fourth quarter.”
The Tigers’ adjustment for the game actually starts long before the 7:30 p.m. kickoff time.
Adairsville will actually have its game time meal on the road to Cleveland.
“We will get off the bus and go through a walk through and stretch our legs,” Bishop said.
He said the Tigers have had a good week of practice and hopefully will be ready for Friday’s test.
“This is our seniors’ third straight playoff appearance,” he said. “We think them just being out here for the playoffs three times will help us a lot.
“We’ve stressed we’ve had a good regular season, but now it’s a brand new season. The regular season is over and now we have a five-game sudden death season.
“We’ve had a good year and hopefully we can pull this out and look forward to playing next week.”