The Lions — who are the No. 1 seed and champions of 6AAAAA — are averaging 32 points per game on offense, just 10 on defense and possess what Varner described as the biggest and fastest roster the Bucs have seen.
“If we get behind on these guys, like we did last week, we’ll be in big trouble,” said the Allatoona coach. “We had a coverage breakdown last week that put us down 7-0 early and we can’t afford any of those this week or it is going to kill us. With their speed, they can really, really hurt you on offense.”
Undefeated on the season, M.L. King (11-0) entered the state playoffs as the No. 2 ranked team in Class-AAAAA and spent the majority of the season in the top 5. The Lions are also in the midst of their 10th straight trip to the state playoffs — a run that includes nine trips to the Round of 16 and four appearances in the state quarterfinals.
A week ago M.L. King beat Sequoyah 34-14 to advance to the second round of the state playoffs. Quarterback Roland Rivers threw for 329 yards in the game and connected on four long touchdown passes — 34, 59, 59 and 71 yards — in the victory.
“They run a spread offense and do a great job of hitting big plays. They can drive the ball well, too, but because they are so athletic and fast, containing that big play will be key for our defense,” said Varner, whose team is allowing just 15 points per game this season.
“On defense they are in a 3-4 front. They are really big and really aggressive. They pretty much play man-to-man with their athletic corners so we’ll do what we can to establish the run, but, we know we’ll need to hit them with some play-action passes, too.”
Allatoona, 3-2 all-time in the state playoffs, played in their only road playoff game on the Friday after Thanksgiving last fall — losing to eventual AAA state champion Burke County 38-28 in the state quarterfinals.
“I think that experience will help us. Our kids came out in that game and responded great on the road and played pretty much as good as you can against a team that easily won a state championship after that night,” Varner said. “We have played in plenty of big game atmospheres before so we should be ready. Overcoming (M.L. King) will be the much bigger challenge.”