Gor­don Cen­tral opens 7-AA sched­ule at home vs. Dragons

Calhoun Times - - SPORTS WEDNESDAY - By Alex Far­rer

The warm-ups are over for Gor­don Cen­tral. This week is when the games that mat­ter most be­gins.

The War­riors will open Re­gion 7-AA play on Fri­day when they host Pep­perell at 7:30 p.m. at Rat­ner Sta­dium. Gor­don Cen­tral (1-2) is look­ing to con­tinue to show im­prove­ment af­ter two wins in the re­gion this year as they try to take an­other step to­ward con­tend­ing for a play­off spot in Year 2 un­der head coach Cory Nix.

They will en­ter the matchup well rested af­ter getting an off week last week fol­low­ing three non-re­gion con­tests to open the sea­son. Nix said it was a pro­duc­tive and suc­cess­ful week for mul­ti­ple rea­sons.

“Last week was good for us be­cause we were able to get back to fun­da­men­tals and have a lit­tle ex­tra prep for Pep­perell,” said Nix. “An­other big thing is we were able to give the kids two days off to give their bod­ies a lit­tle rest and get a chance to fo­cus on their aca­demics more. We got in every­thing we wanted to last week, and we feel like we are ready and pre­pared to start re­gion play.”

The War­riors will host a Pep­perell team that looks a lot dif­fer­ent from last year’s 8- 4 re­gion run­ners-up that ad­vanced to the sec­ond round of the state play­offs. The Dragons (1-2) lost a ton of starters on both sides of the ball to grad­u­a­tion fol­low­ing last sea­son so they are very young and that has shown in their first three non-re­gion games, in­clud­ing their first win last Fri­day at Her­itageCa­toosa.

Even with their youth, Nix said his team is ex­pect­ing a tal­ented and dis­ci­plined op­po­nent on Fri­day night.

“I ex­pect them to be pretty young af­ter los­ing so many starters last sea­son, but they are still very good at do­ing what they want to do on the field,” said Nix. “De­fen­sively, they are mul­ti­ple but will prob­a­bly play more 3-4. On that side of the ball, their nose guard is a stand­out. They like to slant a good bit and are sound and run to the ball. They play re­ally hard.

“Of­fen­sively, they are a spread team. They have suc­cess with screen passes to run­ning backs and re­ceivers. (Chris Barner) is a tough run­ner in­side, and they will try to get ( Cam­ron Miles) touches on the out­side. Their quar­ter­back (Gage Moses) is also a good player, he’s just young and start­ing for the first time. He can make some plays in dif­fer­ent ways too.”

The War­riors have some con­fi­dence that car­ried over from their win two weeks ago at Gilmer by a 44-15 score. They were led on of­fense by a strong night on the ground from both Nel­son Gravitt and Cam Pierce, who ac­counted for more than 150 yards and five touch­downs com­bined. They will also get start­ing tight end and de­fen­sive end Daw­son Lackey back this week af­ter he missed some time a cou­ple weeks ago with an in­jury.

Nix said the War­riors’ fans should be ex­cited and ready to bring a tremen­dous at­mos­phere to the table on Fri­day.

“It’s very im­por­tant to have a great at­mos­phere,” said Nix. “It’s also alumni night so we want folks to show up and show their sup­port in the stands. And we ob­vi­ously want to play our best game at home and pro­tect our home turf. I think us be­ing at home and com­ing off a bye last week is two big plusses go­ing into this game.”

Gor­don Cen­tral has lost all four meet­ings against Pep­perell all­time, in­clud­ing a 43-0 loss last year in Lin­dale. Nix said there are keys his team needs to get ac­com­plished in all three phases in or­der to have suc­cess against the Dragons on Fri­day.

“We’ve got to be able to move the ball and take care of the ball on of­fense,” said Nix. “Our of­fen­sive line play will be huge. We need to get a good push up front and be phys­i­cal all night. De­fen­sively, we have to stop the run and make them pass it. I think if we do that, we’ll get them out of their com­fort zone. And on special teams, we’ve got to play a clean game. We had some big re­turns in our win against Gilmer so we need to make some more of those kinds of plays in special teams and not have any mis­takes.”

The War­riors will be rested and ready to start the re­gion sched­ule, but Pep­perell is also feel­ing a lit­tle bet­ter about them­selves than they did af­ter their first two games fol­low­ing a win in their fi­nal non-re­gion con­test.

Gor­don Cen­tral needs to get off to a good start and use the en­ergy of the home crowd to jump on Pep­perell early and build some con­fi­dence that they can com­pete in this game.

It should be a lot more com­pet­i­tive than last year’s game be­tween th­ese two teams. Ex­pect it to be de­cided by a few plays in the fourth quar­ter.

Pep­perell wins,

Score:

24-21.

Pre­dic­tion:

FRANK CROWE / For the Cal­houn Times

Gor­don Cen­tral runs onto the field prior to a game ear­lier this sea­son. The War­riors will host Pep­perell in their 7-AA opener on Fri­day.

FRANK CROWE / For the Cal­houn Times

Gor­don Cen­tral’s Alec Mor­ris (22) looks for run­ning room against Gilmer.

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