CLEVELAND — It seems that wherever White County plays this season, it captures the attention of all the fans in Region 8-AAA.
This week is no different, as the Warriors (5-1, 2-0 Region 8A-AAA) play host to Stephens County (5-1, 2-0), the team they are tied with for the lead in the north subregion.
“This is by far the biggest game for us this season,” Warrriors senior Patrick Jones said. “This could set us up for a trip to the region title game.”
With the structure of this newly stocked region this season, the two subregion champions will face each other the final week of the regular season in a true region title game.
The winner of Friday’s game will hold an outright lead in the subregion with two games left. White County still has the opportunity to make the playoffs, host a playoff game and win the region title. That’s big aspirations for any football program, but especially for a program that has only made the postseason twice since 2000 and has never captured a region title.
“If I had to guess, I would say that our team is handling everything pretty well,” said Warriors coach Tommy Flowers.
“Our emphasis is strictly to focus on what we do as a team and not worry about the other team.”
Preparing for Friday’s game, White County has its hands full in anticipation of Stephens County, which has more big-play potential than any of the others it has already faced.
Indians senior running back Chaz Thornton eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark last week in a 53-14 win against Chestatee, and Stephens County quarterback Mark Palmer is coming off his most efficient game this season with 138 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Then there’s Cassadine Blassingame, Stephens County’s special teams threat who has scored four special teams touchdowns this year. Blassingame also had a 38-yard touchdown reception last week against Chestatee.
“Stephens County will line up in the I-formation and then go into the spread,” Flowers said. “They have a different type of offense to prepare for to play.”
One area where White County should feel confident is the way the defense has held its ground against explosive offenses.
Last week, the Warriors only allowed 191 total yards of offense (124 yards rushing) to North Hall and its Wing-T offense.
“We’ve definitely done a better job not allowing the big play,” Flowers said. “We’ve even scored on defense a time or two.”
With all of the season’s goals still on the table, senior defensive end Rick Anglin doesn’t want anyone to get ahead of themselves.
A loss Friday could derail some of their hopes considering North Hall and Lumpkin County (both 1-1 in the subregion) face each other Friday at The Brickyard.
Then, White County still has games against Chestatee and Franklin County — both of which Anglin says are very good teams — before the region play-in game.
“We just have to keep our minds focused and keep working as hard as we can in practice every day,” Anglin said.
Offensively, White County has shown how capable it is running the ball. Senior Ashely Lowery rushed for 190 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Lumpkin County and leads the team with 626 yards on the ground. Warriors sophomore quarterback Cole Segraves is an equal threat to run the ball (388 yards, five touchdowns) and throw (735 yards, five touchdowns).
Despite their successes and strong record, Flowers is still eager to see a complete game with offense, defense and special teams all clicking simultaneously. One area he wants to improve is cutting down on some of the penalties and turnovers, especially against a team like Stephens County, where the margin for error will be thin.
“I don’t feel like we’ve peaked yet as a team,” Flowers said. “We want to play fundamentally sound all four quarters.”
If they can finish the season strong and play that game to the best of their abilities to which Flowers alludes, this program could be in store for a season this school will not soon forget.