County high schools ready to play ball tonight.
Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Strong as they head into Week 3 is whether or not they can handle prosperity.
After a tough comefrom-behind victory last week against Mineral Springs, the Bulldogs hit the road for the first time this year when they play at Marianna.
Game time is set for 7 p.m.
A year ago, the Bulldogs (2-0) held off the Trojans (0-2) for an 18-12 win at Jerry Burson Field, the first in coach Greg Anthony's tenure.
But with the Bulldogs undefeated and the Trojans entering after two lopsided losses to East Poinsett County and Helena-West Helena by a combined score of 106-18, staying focused on the task at hand and not looking ahead to the start of 8-2A play is something Anthony has stressed to his team.
"The main challenge for us is not necessarily with them as much as it is with us keeping our level of intensity up and our mindset right and not having a letdown," Anthony said. "Friday night was a big win for us, and you worry as a coach that the kids won't be as focused or might overlook it, so the big part for me is keeping them focused this week and not overlooking them and not look-
ing towards the conference season."
Anthony said the Trojans have plenty of athleticism on offense.
"They're athletic, especially their skill guys," Anthony said. "They've got some speed and talent at those positions. Their quarterback is a pretty good player, so we'll need to keep him contained and not let him have a career night rushing. It will be hard for us to do, but I think we'll be OK."
An interesting facet to keep an eye on will be the battle in the trenches.
Although Anthony said Strong will have the advantage in size, the Trojans have a unit that is very quick.
"Their linemen aren't real big, so we'll have the advantage up front. It's going to be interesting to see how our linemen respond to a smaller, faster group up front."
Desmond Newton, who had 117 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in last year's contest, sealed the victory with an interception with 32 seconds left in the game, and Anthony said the team has talked about last year's hardfought win.
"We talked about that on Sunday when we came in to lift weights and watch film," Anthony said.
"We watched a little bit of last year's film and watched this year's film. They're very similar in what they do from what they did last year.
“We're stressing that we're not good enough to look over anybody right now. We're trying to get a good head of steam going into conference and build some confidence. I'm looking forward to conference."
The start of the 8-2A schedule will be difficult for the Bulldogs, who will play Harmony Grove and host Rison and Hampton in their first three games.
With that in mind, Anthony said the Bulldogs have gone back to basics this week.
"We're using this week as two things," Anthony said. "One is preparing for Marianna, but we're also using it as an extra week to get some stuff in that we hadn't necessarily worked on a lot since two-a-days to get ready for the conference season. It's going to be a big week for us."
With the Bulldogs off to their first 2-0 start since 2011, Anthony said that while his team has plenty of confidence, he is trying to keep them grounded.
"Their confidence is up there, but I try to knock them down a little bit every day," Anthony said.
"You've got to be careful. There's a borderline between confidence and cocky. I'm trying real hard to try and not let themselves get into a situation where we're going to overlook anybody.
“As coaches, we try to find the smallest detail that we can find to harp on them all week. Sometimes they look at me like I'm crazy, but I think that's just part of my job is to not let them get overconfident."
A week ago, the Bulldogs overcame a 10-point, third-quarter deficit to top Mineral Springs, scoring three touchdowns as part of a five-touchdown barrage in a span of 6:22.
"I was standing there, and when they went up 12-2, I walked by one of the assistant coaches, and I told them that we're in trouble if something big doesn't happen," Anthony said.
"It's going to be hard to dig out of this hole because we're down two scores. In the next series, the fumble happened, and I walked back down and looked at them, and I said, 'I think we'll be OK now.' Then I turn around and look and they're returning one to the house, and I'm going, 'Holy crap! Now what!' We got ourselves out of it, then we're right back in it. The guys responded and went right back down and scored, but it was a wild third quarter, it really was."
If the Bulldogs are to stay unbeaten, Anthony said how his team handles the long day of travel and their focus will be paramount.
"We're going on a road trip that's a 3 1/2 to 4-hour drive, and that's the first road trip we've been on all year," Anthony said.
"I think how we handle the travel and the other thing, more than anything, is how we go into the game mentally.
"I think our mental state of mind will determine what happens as far as how serious do we take it. Are we too confident in ourselves? Not overlooking anybody, but maybe not taking it serious because we're 2-0 and they're 0-2, and they've been beaten 44-6 and 62-12, so you look at those scores, and you're thinking, 'Well, we're going to go over there and this is going to be easy.' So our mentality is going to be a bigger key than anything."
Safety: Strong's Chaundre White tackles Mineral Springs punter Dashawn Compton for a safety in the first quarter of their game last week at Jerry Burson Field. Tonight, Strong plays their first road game of the season at Marianna.