Aside from a football team’s season opener, a scrimmage is one of the first chances a coach has to see how his players will react when faced with an opposing team.

That situation will be magnified for first-year Model head coach Jeff Hunnicutt when his team travels to Mt. Zion-Carroll on Thursday for the Blue Devils’ lone preseason tilt. And he’s optimistic about what he will see.

Hunnicutt, who was hired in April to take over the program after the departure of Ricky Ross, has yet to see the Blue Devils line up against anyone other than themselves. The team wrapped up spring practice with an intra-squad scrimmage instead of an exhibition against another school.

While he said there have been positives during practices, Hunnicutt admits he’s eager to see what his players have to show for their hard work and preparation.

“They’re excited because we get to hit somebody else,” Hunnicutt said. “I want to see how we react when we’re hit in the mouth. I want to see if we’re going to lay down. I want to see how we respond when we hit somebody else in the mouth. I’m interested to see, when we’re up or when we’re down, where our character lies within this team. That’s going to be big.”

Hunnicutt said the offense has been a big project during the preseason as he and his staff push the Blue Devils into more of a spread type of offense. Last year’s Model team, which finished 2-8 on the season, struggled to get any consistent offensive effort going and was hampered by injuries.

“We’ve progressed,” Hunnicutt said. “We’re starting to finally catch along with our offensive install. Defensively, we’re pretty simple, but offensively, we’re trying to be more complex, and some of the kids are grasping at what we’re trying to accomplish. We’re trying to be a hurry-up offense, so we’ve got to get more kids on the field.”

A key part of the team coming together, Hunnicutt said, is the more experienced players showing the younger players the ropes.

“The senior leadership is starting to show through,” Hunnicutt said. “Some of the freshmen and sophomores are responding to that.”

The leadership of those seniors will be key for the Devils. With only a small group of them on the team, Hunnicutt said depth is an issue with most players starting on both sides of the ball and coaches trying to give them breaks as much as possible.

The final full week of the preseason wraps up with several local teams participating in scrimmages.

Trion will welcome LaFayette to Sam R. McCain Stadium on Thursday, while Rome High hosts New Manchester at Barron Stadium on Friday night. Friday will also have Bowdon visiting Coosa and Pepperell facing Cass at Dragon Stadium in Lindale.

Other scrimmages Friday area Armuchee on the road at Southeast Whitfield, Chattooga at Cedartown and Temple at Rockmart.

Next week will begin the first week of true preparation for area teams with the season kicking off in full force on Aug. 23 for most programs. The Blue Devils will open the season at home against LaFayette.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The 2019 Pigskin Preview football magazine will be available Aug. 18 and include features, team previews, and statistics for all Rome and Floyd County high schools and colleges, as well as region and conference previews and a look at some of the top football players in the county.