The two teams square off at 7:30 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium in what should prove a lively affair, pitting two teams who want to walk off the field with a victory over a rival as well as develop some momentum for when they begin facing their region opponents.
Adairsville head football coach Eric Bishop said his intention in scheduling Woodland was to match the Tigers with an opponent who would provide tough competition.
“We purposely went in higher classifications in our nonregion games to hopefully prepare us better for the tougher region games that we’ve got to look at down the road with Ringgold, Calhoun, North Murray, Sonoraville, whoever ends up kind of rising to the top as the region schedule goes on,” Bishop said. “We knew with [Woodland] playing in that higher classification and I think a lot of people don’t realize what kind of competition they play week in and week out — it will be good for us to line up against somebody like that.”
He said Woodland will present a challenge with its personnel and also with the type of ball it plays.
“They’ve got good size on the offensive and defensive lines,” Bishop said. “That’s going to be a great matchup for us because most of the teams in our region we feel like we’ve got to compete with for a playoff spot and a region championship have those same type of lineman.”
The coach said his team will only get better because of the tough competition, adding it is one way he hopes his team can extend its season.
“If you look back at White County last year, walking off the field we didn’t feel like our region fully prepared us for that first-run matchup,” he said. “That’s kind of what we were doing early, and hopefully, we’ll go in there and find out a lot about ourselves, much like we did against Ridgeland last week, making a lot of mental mistakes early on and getting in the house at halftime just down by one point after a kickoff return for a touchdown and only 11 plays of offense, came back out with a new mentality and just try to re-establish ourselves offensively and defensively in the second half.
“We did a great job in the second half, and hopefully we can continue to build on that.”
Adairsville finished its season with a 7-4 record, 5-2 in the region, but lost to White County, 52-28, to end its season. That loss made a big impression on the Tigers.
The Tigers head coach said Woodland also is a challenge with its formations.
“You look at the problems Woodland presents you on offense,” he said. “That’s probably been the biggest obstacle this week ... being able to change gears from there. They’re bunched up, two tights, two double wings, what we call four-backs, two tight end-type personnel and the next play they’re out in a four wide, one back spread look. You have to change gears and be so conscious about being lined up correctly.
“They’re counting on you being out of position or misaligned and making a big gain off it. That’s where a lot of our focus has gone defensively.”
Woodland’s defense will likely be its strength this season. The Wildcats had difficulty handling Cartersville’s speed early in their scrimmage Aug. 15 but got traction later. Their standouts include such players as safety Grant Quick, defensive end DaMek Lewis and linebacker Khalil Morris.
Bishop said the Tigers have been giving a lot of attention to the other side of the ball, where Woodland is turning over offensive chores to quarterbacks Tanner Self and Grant Robinson, and running duties to Jonathan Applin, Quick and Morris, among others.
“Offensively, on film they showed two or three different looks,” he said. “We are confident we are ready for all of those looks they’re going to give us on their defensive side, but on Friday night, you never know what you’re going to get. We told our kids last week not having any more film on Ridgeland than we had and we’re kind of in the same boat with Woodland. They didn’t play last week, so we only have a certain number of plays we’ve seen them on offense and defense. So we will be prepared again to make those in-game adjustments, and if we do get down, hopefully we don’t push the panic button and we can get ourselves re-established and get ourselves back in the game.”
Bishop said the Ridgeland game was an educational experience for the Tigers.
“We learned a lot about our defensive line and linebackers,” he said. “I’ve been bragging on our linebacking corps of Daelen Harrison, Dallas Cannon and Cody Hightower. Those three guys have done a great job in the offseason and during the installation period in the preseason. They had a great ball game [against Ridgeland], all three of them and then our defensive line, we found some guys who really want to turn it on.”
He said other players also are stepping up this year.
“Offensively, our big question mark going into this year was our offensive line,” he said. “We made some mental mistakes in the first half [against Ridgeland] that we cleaned up in the second half. Hopefully that offensive line group will continue to grow in this ballgame and be ready for region play after an off week.”
Bishop also sees another plus in playing a rivalry game.
“Hopefully it being an intercounty rivalry, Bartow County will come out and support the two local high schools against one another and ... [play in] a playoff-type atmosphere.”