It feels as if the state playoffs are beginning this week for the Greyhounds, even though it is just a Region 7AAAAA play-in game. They will host Northview ( 3-6) tonight for their second meeting of the season against the Titans. The winner goes to the Class AAAAA state tournament. The loser goes home.
Pope (6-3) defeated Northview 45-27 during the regular season Sept. 21.
“We’re been in this situation and they certainly understand that it’s playoff football,” Pope coach Matt Kemper said. “They want to keep playing and are feeling a lot of pride about that. Our school is also very supportive.”
Pope has already played two region play-in games twice before and won both times.
The Greyhounds are capable of heading to the playoffs for a third straight year, which would be a first in team history. Northview’s defense has leakages — having given up at least 28 points in every game played this season.
Pope just has to figure out a way to solve the Titans’ potent offense, which is capable of scoring just as much.
Winning will require a team effort on both sides of the ball.
Pope enjoyed a six-game winning streak prior to its 31-3 loss to Kell last week, and the defense only yielded an average of 10 points a game during the stretch.
If Pope’s defense can play like it had the previous six weeks, the Greyhounds have a great shot at cutting down on Northview’s point total.
It starts with slowing down Northview running back Terrence Upshaw, who has gotten offers from Vanderbilt, Bowling Green and Buffalo, according to Rivals.com.
“(Northview) is obviously a potent offensive team and (Upshaw) is a fine player,” Kemper said. “We still have to play solid defense.”
Linebackers Sean Hatcher and Joey Tabachino and defensive back Ryan Hanley were Pope’s leading tacklers last week and it will need another strong performance from the trio this week.
Offensively, the Greyhounds are designed to go on long drives and chew a lot of clock, which keeps opposing offenses off the field.
Ronald Woods and Itabari Mason have been an effective two-headed monster in the backfield for the Greyhounds and Woods is leading with 709 yards and has seven touchdowns.
Pope has also rotated two quarterbacks in Sam Yarborough and Stephen Skruck to throw defenses off balance.
“We came out with great tempo and enthusiasm (at practice),” Kemper said. “It feels a lot like playoff football already and there’s still a lot of things this group can accomplish.”