For the Eagles, it was their first win under coach Dave Svehla. But more importantly than that, the team made major improvements between the first and second week.
“I think we made improvements, certainly,” Svehla said. “We ran the ball better, but still had some issues with penalties, and left some penalties on the field. We’re going to have to be a lot better against Pope.”
Meanwhile, Pope is a team that has struggled in its first two games of the season. The Greyhounds (0-2) were shut out by Wheeler last week and are similarly looking for improvement.
The Greyhounds are using the early games of the regular season to help mold a team that is much younger than its team from last season. As a result, the team’s attitude is different.
“We have the region championship curse,” Pope coach Matt Kemper said. “We’re playing good football teams, and I think we can’t get caught up in, ‘Did we win? Did we lose?’ It’s, are we playing hard? The football that counts for us is way down the road.”
Although Etowah is under a first-year coach running a new system, the team around him is far more experienced. As a result, he is extolling the virtue of competing game in and game out.
“I know that they don’t count toward the postseason, but that doesn’t really impact us in any way shape or form — physically, mentally, emotionally or psychologically,” Svehla said. “We’re competitive people and want to perform at our very best every time we get a chance to play. Granted, you want to be at your best in region play. But you sure want to see signs that we’re making improvements from week to week.”
In Etowah’s change from running a veer last season to the I-formation this year, Etowah is using last year’s starting quarterback John Oliver at wide receiver, while Reeves Johnson, who sat out last season with an ACL injury, resumed his role as the starter.
“(Oliver) is an athlete,” Svehla said. “He’s 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and has good, soft hands. As a coach, I’m not sure I can justify playing a game out there and looking on the sidelines to see one of the better athletes standing on the sidelines. It’s good having both (Oliver and Johnson) out there.”
However, the system at Etowah, and it’s smashmouth attitude have not changed.
“(Etowah) relies on being very tough,” Kemper said. “They just run straight at you. Wheeler and Marietta were extremely athletic, not that Etowah isn’t, but they are a totally different kind of football team. They’re going to try and smash you, chew the clock, play great defense and special teams. So, it’s a completely different kind of animal.”
As a result, Kemper believes that the Greyhounds need to show more intensity and more passion playing against Etowah this week than they have over the last two weeks of the season.
“I think the biggest thing for us is bringing a little more passion to how we’re playing,” Kemper said. “We’re a young football team looking for leaders right now. We’ve got a lot of juniors and sophomores. You have to feel your way out. You look for a lot in your captain. You’ve got guys in new positions and in new territory.
“We’re not going to be a rah-rah football team because that’s not what we believe in. But we want to play disciplined football and do what we’re coached to do. They understand that and know they need to get better at it.”