Phoenix pre­pare for tal­ented Tigers

Calhoun Times - - SPORTS WEDNESDAY - By Alex Far­rer

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.”

Pre­dic­tion:

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.

Score:

LARRY GREE­SON / For the Cal­houn Times

Sono­rav­ille’s Wes McCormick looks to make a move up­field after mak­ing a catch last Fri­day.

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