The start to the 2011 football season has been a case of "good news, bad news" for the Lumpkin County Indians.
On one hand, they have opened this season much like they did a season ago, winning their first two over Riverside Military and Johnson High in blowout fashion, outscoring them by a combined 78-13.
They outscored the same opponents 72-14 in their first two a season ago.
That's the good news.
The bad news? Lumpkin County now has to face Monroe Area, a team that beat the Indians twice last year, including a 38-0 win in a region playoff game that kept the team out of the state playoffs.
And the team from Dahlonega has to do so without its star defensive end B.J. Dorsey, who was lost for the season to a partially torn ACL.
Dorsey, who originally reported little pain and an ability to run on his leg, said he was surprised to find out it was his ACL.
"We went and got it checked out by somebody else," Dorsey said, "but they said the same thing. I had the option of playing with a brace, but there's always the risk of tearing it completely and, for me as a recruit, that wasn't something I could risk."
Dorsey missed part of the 2010 season with a knee injury.
The difference in the team's defensive production before and after his injury was evident.
In six games before his injury, the Indians allowed more than 20 points just once.
In four games after Dorsey's injury, opponents exceeded that mark three times.
The injury is just another setback for a program that has never won Region 8-AAA, and hasn't made the state playoffs since 2003.
But don't tell the team that.
Coach Tommy Jones has been pleased with his team's progress and believes that it can continue to take steps in the right direction despite the loss of one of his leaders.
"The point of focus for us is the health of our program," he said. "And what I mean by health is: Do we practice like we need to practice every day? Do we do those things it takes to be a successful program?
"The best way to improve in the long term is to improve every day, and I think we've got kids who are willing to do that."
Senior linebacker Trevor Eudy echoed his coach's words.
"In most senses, B.J. is an irreplaceable player," he said. "But we've got a lot of guys that can step up and really help to fill his place. We've got more depth than last year and a lot of younger guys that will help us out."
To win the game, Jones stressed the importance of his team controlling the rhythm of the game, specifically controlling the ball on offense.
"We've got to get in a rhythm and control the clock," he said. "Defensively, we need to tackle well. They've got some great athletes on offense, and it's important for us to not give them anything easy."
The ultimate goal for this team, Dorsey or no Dorsey, is to make the playoffs, a goal it is yet to achieve in Jones' five-plus years as head coach.
But to do that, Eudy said, his team can not get ahead of itself and lose sight of the next opponent.
And while the opponent the Indians will face is a team that beat them twice a season ago, he stressed that it's important, not because of what the teams did last year, but simply because it is the next date on the schedule.
"This game is the biggest game because it's the next game," Eudy said. "We take everything one week at a time.
"So, yeah, I think it's a huge game, but I think we'll be able to come out and play hard. If we play like we're capable of in this game and for the rest of the season, we'll be able to show everyone how much we've improved."
As for Dorsey, he'll have to watch from the sidelines, something that upsets him because, after all of his hard work, he'll have to miss his senior year.
But on the field or off, he believes this team has the ability to continue to improve.
"The effort is there," he said. "I don't know what they'll do the rest of the way, but I know they're going to keep working hard."