Sonoraville's Blade Bryant and Case Collins

Sonoraville QB Blade Bryant (right) runs behind the block of teammate Case Collins during the preseason scrimmage. (Larry Greeson, For the Calhoun Times)

The Sonoraville Phoenix have some high goals for the season, but the focus right now is on one thing…getting a win against Model on Friday night.

The Phoenix will open the 2018 regular season in front of their home fans on Friday at 7:30 p.m. as they look to get off to a strong start with the Blue Devils coming to town for a non-region test.

Sonoraville head coach Denver Pate, who is starting his second season with the Phoenix, said he and his players are looking forward to playing at home and it being a great atmosphere.

“We expect the Furnace to be rocking,” said Pate. “We as a staff and a team know we did not play to our capability in the scrimmage (against Gordon Central). That is why you have a scrimmage to begin with to work out the kinks. Fortunately for us, we are still 0-0 afterwards and have learned a lot in the process. The fan support has always been amazing when playing a home game, and I would expect no different this Friday when the lights turn on.”

The Phoenix had a week off last week following their preseason scrimmage at Gordon Central. Pate said it was a good and bad thing to not have a game last Friday, but he feels like his team used the time to improve.

“I look at the week off in two different ways, it was good in a sense to have time to work on our mistakes from the scrimmage and to progress on both sides of the football but on the flip side, sometimes when you play bad you want to get right back out there and get the bad taste out of your mouth,” said Pate.

The Phoenix will have a chance to do that this week with Model traveling to Sonoraville. The Blue Devils played their season opener last Friday and fell to LaFayette 28-25 in a game that was delayed for two hours due to weather in the second quarter. Model rallied to take the lead at 25-21 in the fourth quarter, but LaFayette scored on the first play of their next drive and held on from there.

Pate said Model will pose a strong threat on both sides of the ball with several playmakers on the field, including Kwalic Dublin who plays both running back and defensive back.

“Model is a young team that has some playmakers on the field,” said Pate. “On defense, they will be in a 3-5 and have shown to slant the front a good bit. Offensively, they run the single wing, which is something that you are not accustomed to seeing much. They rely on their shifts and fakes to out-leverage you so we must be solid in our reads to shut down an offense we typically do not see.”

Friday’s game will be a bit of a reunion as well as Model is led by first-year head coach Ricky Ross, who served as defensive coordinator under Pate last season.

The series between the two teams has been very competitive over the last several years as they have squared off a total of 12 times and each team has won six matchups. The Devils had won four straight against the Phoenix before Sonoraville’s 28-7 victory at Model last August.

The game will go a long way in showing who Sonoraville will be counting on this season as well as they replace several starters from last year’s team, including at quarterback and running back. Blade Bryant is expected to get the first snaps at quarterback, while Case Collins and others will split time carrying the football. The defense has the majority of the experience on their side of the ball as several starters are back at linebacker and in the secondary following their first varsity reps in 2017.

Pate said for his team to have success on Friday, there are several keys they must accomplish on the field against Model.

“We must have success on first down offensively,” said Pate. “We cannot turn the ball over like we did in our scrimmage and expect to be successful. Defensively, we have to eliminate their explosive plays, and we have to get off the field on third down.”