With one week left to work out the kinks before region play begins, coaches expect to see improvement.
Forsyth Central, North Forsyth and West Forsyth all finish the non-region schedule on the road, while Lambert, Pinecrest Academy and South Forsyth will play at home.
Not all regions have the luxury of playing three non-region games before the season truly begins. Region 5-AAAAA, featuring East Paulding, plays 10 consecutive region games. Seven other regions have only two or fewer non-region matchups, while three regions have a gaudy six-game non-region schedule, according to research done by FCN sports editor Brian Paglia.
"I look at it as two seasons," said Forsyth Central coach Shane Williamson. "We’ve got the non-region season and that’s an opportunity to get momentum going, especially coming in as a first-year head coach.
"It allows you some availability to kind of mold your team into what you’re going to be and find that identity. You want to get those things done before you get to your region."
Added West coach Frank Hepler: "I like the way it’s set up. It’s good to be able to play three people of your choice. It helps at the gate. It can help your program overall as far as developing your team and developing some rivalries."
North Forsyth head coach Jason Galt said that while he wants to win tonight, he doesn’t want to compromise the health of a few players in order to win a game that doesn’t count toward the playoffs.
"Ultimately the focus is on the first region game," Galt said. "For instance, we’re playing Cherokee. I got a few guys banged up right now. I told them they’re probably not going to play, because this game doesn’t matter. When you’re playing a non-region game, you’re willing to sit guys to get them healthy. With a region game, they’re going to tape it up and play. Now we’re playing to win, but if they’re not healthy they may not play."
Lambert coach Sid Maxwell said his top priority is fundamentals entering the final non-region game. Despite the Longhorns 24-9 victory over Roswell, they were penalized 13 times for 115 yards, something Maxwell said can’t happen again.
"We’re going to try and eliminate the penalties a little bit," Maxwell said. "We still have a ways to go, but they’re very enthusiastic and we’re learning and we played a little bit better against Roswell in all three phases."
Although Pinecrest won’t start region play until Week 5, it still earns points via the power rating system by MaxPreps to determine the top-16 private school teams in Class 1A who qualify for the postseason.
Coach Todd Winter decided to name sophomore Jake Mangan the team’s quarterback after going with freshman Ryan McCarthy in last week’s 10-7 win over Cross Keys. The Paladins will use their game against Mt. Vernon to specifically work on the triple-option.
"We’ve got to run the triple-option," Winter said. "We’ve played two football games and we haven’t run the option. In the first game, that was part of our gameplan, to ease the quarterback in by not putting a lot on his plate. This last game we started the freshman Ryan and he struggled reading it, but he’s a freshman, 14 years old, so we’re going to go back with Jake in this game."
South Forsyth coach Jeff Arnette said his team will treat tonight’s matchup with Cambridge just like any other week, always looking to improve.
"We’re just trying to get better every week," Arnette said "Hopefully, that’s what we’ve done. From Week 1 to Week 2, I think we cut down on a lot of mistakes and they say a lot of times the most improvement comes between Week 1 and [Week] 2."