Game: Gordon Lee (2-1) at No. 4 Darlington (3-0)
Last meeting: Darlington 24, Gordon Lee 7 (Sept. 14, 2018)
All-time series: Darlington leads 16-1
On the air: WLAQ-AM 1410
After two weeks away from their home field, the Darlington Tigers return to Chris Hunter Stadium on Friday bringing a lot of momentum into region play.
The Tigers have won three straight games and sit tied at fourth with Riverside Military in the Class A Private Power Rankings heading into Friday’s Region 6-A opener against visiting Gordon Lee.
“We’re very excited to be where we are,” Darlington head coach Tommy Atha said. “We’re fortunate, but this is where it really starts. Those first three games have power ranking ramifications, but at the same time, your standing in the region has a huge impact. We have a lot of work to do. It’s huge from the standpoint of it’s our first region game. It’s very important to get off on the right foot.”
Doing his part to power the offense to success has been Kolin Rogers. Through three games, the senior running back has accumulated 411 yards on the ground and six rushing touchdowns on 64 carries. Rogers has been a key part of the offense early in the season, averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
Darlington’s high-powered offense, which also includes quarterback Griffin Brewster and receiver Trystin Wright, showed how quickly it can take control of a game when the Tigers scored 31 unanswered points against Sonoraville in Darlington’s last game on Sept. 6.
Combining a potent offense with a devastating defense has kept the Tigers on top this season. Highlighted by linemen Tate Ratledge and Cade Brock, and linebacker Kobe Nadu, the Tigers have given up only 11.7 points per game, including a 49-0 shutout against Coosa in Week 2.
Both teams this week are coming off bye weeks, which has afforded the Tigers an opportunity to rest up for the region contest. However, Atha said there can be a downside to having that down time.
“We’ve had an opportunity to heal up after those first three games, and we’re pretty healthy right now,” Atha said. “Anytime you have a week off, it’s a good thing and a bad thing. You want that opportunity to regroup, but you don’t want to break continuity. Hopefully we’ll get off to a fast start.”
Gordon Lee, ranked 13th in the Class A Public Power Rankings, opened the season with two straight wins against Dade County and Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe, but is coming off a 28-20 loss to LaFayette on Sept. 6.
Still, Gordon Lee is not without its weapons. Through three games, Cade Peterson has 495 rushing yards on the season and eight rushing touchdowns. The junior running back racked up 173 yards on 16 carries, including a 51-yard touchdown run, in the loss to the Ramblers.
Atha said the Trojans’ backfield can be difficult to defend against.
“They’re going to give you a lot of different formations and do a lot of different things in the backfield,” Atha said. “They’ve got some skill kids that run. Defensively, they’re always very tough. They’ve got some big kids up front. Anytime we play them, it’s going to be a physical game.”
— Jonathan Blaylock