Game: Model (2-3, 2-0) at Pepperell (4-1, 2-0)
Last meeting: Pepperell 41, Model 7 (Sept. 28, 2018)
All-time series: Pepperell leads 33-20-3
On the air: WQTU-FM 102.3, Mountain Coast Network — www.mountaincoastnetwork.com/model-blue-devils.html
Rivalries can be an important motivating factor when teams meet on the gridiron, but at this point in the prep football season, something more important is at play.
Floyd County rivals Model and Pepperell — who have met on the gridiron since 1951 — play Friday in Lindale at Dragon Stadium with more than just bragging rights on the line. The winner will have a big advantage in the Region 7-AA standings as the season moves along.
“Anytime you go home, you want to leave victorious,” first-year Model head coach Jeff Hunnicutt said. “If there’s any hopes or aspirations of hosting a first-round playoff game, this is the first step to that.”
Pepperell brings a four-game winning streak into Friday’s home game against the Blue Devils, but Dragons head coach Rick Hurst wants his team to be more focused on the task at hand and how they could benefit by coming away with a win at a key point in the season with Pepperell, Model, Rockmart and Chattooga all tied atop of the region standings at 2-0.
“It’s huge,” Hurst said. “All four teams at the top are playing each other, so whoever wins these two games will have the inside track for the one and two seeds. It’s huge. The momentum for us is behind us. Those four games — we don’t talk about them anymore. They’re over. We just look ahead. We just want to go into the next week and have that 3-0 mark in the region and get our legs back up under us, because we’ve got four big ones after the open week.”
Pepperell brings a potent offense against Model, while the Blue Devils’ defense has been one of the teams’ biggest strengths.
Pepperell quarterback Gage Moses threw for two touchdowns last week in a 42-0 shortened game against Coosa, while running back D.J. Rogers rushed for two more scores.
“They throw the ball very efficiently and effectively, and they’re running game is starting to gain a little momentum as well,” Hunnicutt said of the Dragons. “We’ve got to contain that and try to avoid the big play. If we can eliminate the big play, especially in the passing game, I like where we are as a football team.”
Last week, Model owned a 37-0 lead at halftime before coming away with a 44-6 win over visiting Armuchee. The Blue Devils’ defense held the Indians to only 39 yards of offense for the game.
The Blue Devils also gave up only 24 points to Class 3A North Murray, which ended Calhoun’s 18-year streak of region victories this season two weeks ago — a fact that resonated with Hurst.
“They play defense really well,” Hurst said. “They’ve played extremely tough over the last two or three weeks. They gave North Murray all they wanted, so that was enough for our kids to open their eyes. I know Jeff and he’s going to have the defense ready to play. The one thing I’ve noticed that’s different from last year is how they’re flying to the ball defensively, and they’re excited about defense. That’s a direct reflection of coach Hunnicutt.”
The game also has a little more meaning for the Model coach as he will lead his team onto Lynn Hunnicutt Field at Dragon Stadium for the first time as a head coach. The field is named after his father, who was a longtime coach for the Dragons, and both father and son are graduates of the school.
“It’s a big game because it’s the next one, and it’s a big one because I’m an alumni and we’ve got three or four of the guys on staff that are alumni of Pepperell,” Jeff Hunnicutt said. “It means something. It is a little bit more personal. It’ll be fun.”
— Jonathan Blaylock