Phoenix prepare for talented Tigers
The Sonoraville Phoenix passed one non-region test last Friday with their 21-14 victory over Model in the season opener, but it’s right back to work this week as they will face an even tougher one away from home.
The Phoenix (1-0) make the trip down to Rome to visit Darlington at 7:30 p.m. for what should be a competitive early-season matchup between two programs that have had success over the last several years, and for Darlington over the last couple decades.
Sonoraville head coach Denver Pate said being on the road against a solid team like the Tigers (2-0) will be a tough challenge, but he is ready to see how his team handles it.
“Our team is learning and maturing with each passing week,” said Pate. “I look for our guys to remain focused on the task at hand just as they did last week and eliminate distractions and play football. We have to play a complete game this week in order to compete against Darlington in their backyard.”
In last Friday’s win over Model, the Phoenix got off to a great start, building a 21-0 lead thanks to solid defense and an efficient offense. Sonoraville running back Case Collins scored all three touchdowns on the ground to help his team jump ahead by three scores.
But after halftime, Model made adjustments and Sonoraville’s offense couldn’t quite get going like they were in the first half, forcing the Phoenix defense to make several big plays in the final few minutes to secure the victory, including a couple huge tackles by Colton Richards and a pass breakup by Blade Bryant. Pate said he was pleased with how his team fed off the home crowd to start the game and jump on top in the opener, but they will need to be more consistent over four quarters going forward.
“I thought the energy from the crowd and the sidelines impacted our players,” said Pate. “It was an electric atmosphere. I thought we came out of the gates ready to play, and we got after it in the first half. I thought (quarterback) Cole Godfrey did a nice job leading our offense. He showed good poise and made good decisions with the football throughout the game. Now we have to put two halves together to be able to contend with a good Darlington team.”
Godfrey, who made his first varsity start at quarterback for the Phoenix last Friday, threw for 177 yards in the victory over Model on 13-of-20 passing.
Darlington has also gotten off to a great start in 2018 as they have gone on the road in the first two weeks and gotten wins over Pepperell, 44-14, and Coosa, 21-6. The win last Friday against Coosa did come at a cost, however, as the Tigers lost starting quarterback Griffin Brewster to a knee injury that will likely cost him the rest of his junior season. Even with the injury, Pate said Darlington, who is led by veteran head coach Tommy Atha, is plenty talented enough at other positions to cause a lot of problems for their opponents.
“Darlington is a very sound football team,” said Pate. They will line up in a lot of different formations offensively to out flank you on defense. They have a very good offensive tackle that everyone in the country is after. He impacts the game on both sides of the ball. They will run a couple different looks defensively with a 3-4 and 4-2-5.”
The two programs have faced each other twice, with the last coming back in 2011. Darlington won both meetings, defeating the Phoenix 57-20 in 2010 and 35-14 in 2011.
Pate said forcing turnovers will be a big key on Friday as his team hopes to continue their positive earlyseason surge in that area of the game, as they won the turnover battle 3-1 against the Devils.
“We must again win the turnover battle,” said Pate. “We won it last week, but the one turnover we did have was a critical one that gave ( Model) life. We must continue to play together as a team and play for the guy beside you.”
The Phoenix tasted a bit of adversity last week in their opener and overcame it by making the plays necessary to pull out the win in the fourth quarter. They will need a more complete effort against Darlington, who should have a more balanced and talented attack than Model did.
The injury to Darlington’s QB definitely effects the game, but Sonoraville will still need to play their best game in order to pull out the win. They should make a big leap from Week 1 to Week 2.
Sonoraville wins, 24-20.
Sonoraville’s Wes McCormick looks to make a move upfield after making a catch last Friday.