Region play starts tonight as playoff hunt kicks off
By DAVID MITCHELL
If you compared a high school football schedule to that of the professionals, the handful of non-region games to start each season would be the equivalent of the NFL's preseason.
It's not that the games don't matter. They do. They just don't count when it comes to determining a team's playoff standing.
Leave that to the region slate, which Carver (3-1) will begin with its game against Pike County (2-2) tonight at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium.
And Tigers coach Dell McGee stressed the importance of his team getting the "regular" season started off strong.
"It's the start of region play, and we've got a bye week next week, so a win would be very important," he said. "You never want to lose going into the bye week."
More important than just picking up the win, McGee said, is putting together a complete game, offensively and defensively, something he said the team hasn't done this season.
"We haven't played a full game the way we expect to play yet," he said. "We know it's a work in progress, and a lot of it is the inexperience. But we're at the point of the season where being inexperienced is just an excuse, and we're no longer going to accept that."
There are a handful of areas where McGee said he is looking to show some progress and put that full performance together in tonight's game -- and beyond.
The offensive line, he said, has played well but is still battling injuries. Consistency and continuity has been missing from the unit, something he said would have to change.
"We're still battling a lot of injuries on the offensive line, so we're trying to find some continuity there," he said. "We're trying to establish more of a running game. We just want to establish a good foundation, and hopefully we've got some parts of that together before we play (tonight) to start region play."
The running game appeared to be coming to life in last week's 32-20 win over Tri-Cities. Running back Brandon Thomas rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown. Danny Ryles added a score on the ground and quarterback Torrance McGee took it into the end zone twice.
"I feel like we're finally starting to click a little bit," Thomas said. "We had to polish some things early on, and I think we're starting to come together as more of a team."
McGee also mentioned continued progress from his defense, a unit which has, for the most part, played well this year.
"I think our defensive line stepped up against some great competition last week," he said. "They grew up a lot. We just have to continue that, make sure we're not getting complacent and continue to improve from week to week."
It was important growth, as McGee and defender Tim Whatley mentioned the number of formations Pike County runs on offense.
McGee said it will be the most Carver has faced all year.
"They make you think about a lot from a defensive perspective," he said.
"They have a lot of formations," Whatley added. "We've got to make a lot of checks on defense. They're a good team, so we've got to take our A-game out there."
The A-game is something the Tigers appeared to have a week ago before faltering down the stretch and allowing 15 points in the final 5 minutes of the game.
Despite picking up a 12-point win, McGee said the closing minutes left a bad taste in his mouth and highlighted the need for his team to focus on finishing games.
"It left a bad taste in my mouth, no question," McGee said. "As far as our goals on a game-to-game basis, it didn't allow us to meet them for that game."
Tonight would be as good of a time as any.
A complete game to kick off region play builds confidence for the players and establishes the team's place in the region fold.
"It's important," Whatley said. "It will build confidence for us, but we've still got to go out there and maximize on our opponent's mistakes and play 48 minutes."
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571