Just two short weeks ago, the Sonoraville football team was 0-3 and looking like they were headed for another disappointing season.
Enter Cody Long.
The sophomore took over as starting quarterback, and the Phoenix have now won two straight and are in the driver’s seat for one of the four playoff spots in Region 5-AAA, which would be their first trip to the postseason in school history.
“(Cody’s) been a big boost,” said Sonoraville coach Roger Gentry. “We started out with him at free safety, and we were trying to do some other things on offense. It’s nothing bad on (previous starter) Griff (Bryant), it’s just that Cody brought a little spark to the offense that we needed.
“We decided to go with him, and everything has worked out. I guess sometimes you don’t really know what’s going to happen until you try it out so we did.”
Sonoraville (2-3, 2-0) will look to keep that momentum going on Friday night when they welcome Ringgold at 7:30 p.m. for Homecoming. The Tigers (4-1, 2-0) are also off to a fast start in 5-AAA play with convincing wins over Gordon Central and Adairsville.
Gentry said he knows his team has a tough challenge ahead with Ringgold coming to town.
“They are a lot bigger than some of the teams we’ve played,” said Gentry. “I compare them a lot to Gilmer. They are big and strong, and they’ve got five or six guys that play both ways.
“We’re going to do some things to try and tire those guys that play both ways out. Their offense is a lot like ours so our defense should be ahead of the curve on that. If we do the things we’re supposed to, I think we’ve got a good chance of being in it.”
Sonoraville is coming off wins over Coahulla Creek and North Murray the last two weeks as they’ve turned around their season after an 0-3 start. Long has made the offense look a lot more explosive with his ability to run as well as make a pass when he needs to. That has gone a long way in helping open the field up a lot more for running back Andrew Slaton.
Gentry said he’s extremely pleased with how his team has responded after the tough start to the season.
“After that third week when we were sitting there 0-3, we were kind of scratching our heads a little,” said Gentry. “We knew we had a good team, but we just couldn’t get anything going. The guys came out that week and had the best week of practice I’ve seen, and got things turned around.
“We changed some personnel and swapped some things around so it’s been a mixture of things that’s helped us. We knew we needed to get off to a fast start with two wins in the region, and we have. Now we just have to stay focused and take care of business.”
One of the big keys on Friday for Sonoraville will be slowing down Ringgold quarterback Slade Dale. The senior, who is committed to play baseball at UGA, is a dual-threat quarterback that can hurt opposing teams in many ways. Dale also has several weapons on offense at his disposal so the Phoenix defense led by defensive coordinator Jim Kremer will have their hands full.
Gentry said keeping the Ringgold offense in check is one of the keys to getting a big win on Friday.
“We’ve got to play our assignments on defense really well Friday,” said Gentry. “We’ve also got to get our checks right on offense, play solid special teams and do away with some of our penalties.
“If we do that, I think we’ll be in it. I have a lot of respect for Ringgold and their coaches and players. We’ve got to play very well Friday because they are a very good team.”
The Phoenix have momentum in their favor right now after a solid 2-0 start to the region schedule, but the competition ramps up this week with Ringgold. The Tigers are a very explosive team on offense, and their defense has some of the biggest personnel around.
Sonoraville has shown a revived offense the last few weeks with Long at quarterback so they will have to continue to make big plays to keep their team in the game.
This one’s going to be a shootout. Expect the scoreboard to work a little extra on Friday.
Score: Ringgold wins, 35-28.