Game: Gordon Central (0-3) at Pepperell (2-1)
Last meeting: Pepperell won 28-27 (Sept. 14, 2018)
All-time series: Pepperell leads 5-0
On the air: WQTU-FM 102.3
There is no Georgia High School Association power ranking system used for Class AA football teams, but Pepperell would be in pretty good contention to be high on the list.
After defeating two Class 4A teams in the last two weeks and falling to a Class A Private top-ten team by 10 points in the season opener, the Dragons enter Region 7-AA play Friday by hosting Gordon Central.
Head coach Rick Hurst said he has been excited by the effort and physicality his team has displayed so far.
“I think we’ve improved weekly, and that’s something I’ve wanted to do against the tough schedule that we’ve played,” Hurst said. “It was nice to win two big games and two big games against two 4A opponents who were in the playoffs last season. And I thought the way we beat them was the biggest thing I was happy about. We were more physical than they were. What we wanted this year was a physical team, and I think we got one.”
The biggest takeaway from Pepperell so far has been its defense, which has provided the right push at the right time to hold off Pickens in a 34-20 win and Heritage-Catoosa in a 20-13 win. Hurst said senior defensive back Josh Ross has been a big reason for that.
“Josh Ross is just a dynamic player,” Hurst said. “He leads our defense and he leads our secondary. He’s all over the place and makes plays in the backfield. He’s off to a great start, like we knew would be.”
Defensive lineman Tyler Liggons has gone up against three DI tackles so far this season and Hurst complemented his performance against them, while Payton Rhoades has come along and improved in the secondary to match his prowess at receiver.
“We’re not 2-1. Overall, yes that’s our record, but we’re concerned about being 1-0 each week, and now that region play is starting, that’s especially how we approach each game,” Hurst said.
Gordon Central comes into Lindale off of an open week and will try to correct some mistakes that has led them to only 20 points and a winless record so far. But Hurst is hoping his team won’t brush the Warriors off, especially after last year’s 28-27 last-second win in Calhoun.
“The thing we try to convey to them is what happened last year. It was nothing more than turning the ball over and making mistakes, and we simply can’t do that,” Hurst said. “This is a team that can be dangerous and can come over this week and wreck our season, and that’s exactly what they’ll try to do.”
— Jeremy Stewart