As they entered the 2012 season, Shaw High players and coaches expressed optimism about the team's chances.
Most important to them, though, was a good performance in the first game against Northside, a team it had lost to for three consecutive years.
The Raiders pulled off a 21-0 shutout last Thursday behind a strong defensive effort. Now, attention can turn to Carver, which they play tonight at Kinnett Stadium. Kickoff is at 7.
And while playing the No. 3 team in Class AAA obviously warrants a bit of attention, Raiders coach Kyle Adkins is
trying to treat this game no different than the rest.
"Basically, just trying not to get ahead of ourselves and trying not to treat this game any differently than we will the other nine games out of the year," he said. "But it is tough."
It's tough because it's another team within the city, so emotions will be high, but also because of the significance a win, or even a good performance, would hold for Shaw.
The Raiders have been trying to return to the prominence they held for years before they began to slide in 2008. A return to the state playoffs last season for Shaw, even though a first-round loss sent it to its fourth straight losing season, was a step in the right direction.
A strong showing against the Tigers, who are consistently among the state's elite, could be a sign that the Raiders are back.
"Maybe," Adkins said when asked if that's what a win would mean. "Maybe. But like I said, to sit here and say that this game's not important would be a lie. But it's most important because it's the next one. We're trying not to give this more attention than what we feel that it deserves. Any win for the program right now would be big."
Raiders quarterback Chandler Whittlesey was of the same mind.
"This week, I just went out and practiced like usual," he said. "Practiced hard. It's just a normal game."
Linebacker De'Anthone Morse noted that, like the others, this game only counts once in the standings.
"It would be just another game won," he said.
To give itself a chance, Shaw has to improve in a number of areas from its game last week.
Whittlesey, despite a productive showing against Northside, was unhappy with his performance. He threw two interceptions and gave the Patriots good field position. He said that he knows he, and his team, will have to do better if they want a chance against the Tigers.
"If you want to be the best, you've got to limit your mistakes and not make stupid decisions, especially in big games like that," he said.
Doing that takes a lot of preparation. Even then, it comes down to execution.
"There's no magic potion that we can give them," Adkins said. "We've just got to hope that our mental preparation, the time and effort that we put in, is going to pay dividends (tonight)."
On the other sideline, Carver quarterback Torrance McGee knows what his team is up against. He knows the Raiders are improved and that mistakes and penalties, like the Tigers have been prone to early on, won't get the job done.
"We can't have bad penalties or anything like that," he said. "That will cost us the game."
McGee said that he and his teammates were looking forward to the opportunity to improve and make up for the mistakes they made a week ago in a 47-6 win over Spencer.
"Last week, we had a lot of penalties," he said. "We're just looking forward to correcting the mistakes from last week."
A win for Carver doesn't hold nearly the same significance as it does for Shaw, but it is, nonetheless, a good gauge of the progress the team is making, progress it needs if it is going to compete for a state title.
"We've got a lot of improving to do," McGee said. "Lot of improving to do. A lot of work left to put in."
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571