Game: East Paulding at Allatoona
Last year: East Paulding 31, Allatoona 19
All-time series: East Paulding leads 2-0
Prediction: Allatoona 24, East Paulding 21
Allatoona doesn’t have the luxury of opening with a non-region game this season for self-evaluation.
The Buccaneers’ fate at the end of the season may be decided by tonight’s season opener at home against Region 5AAAAAA rival East Paulding.
Allatoona is still looking for its first win over the Raiders after losing both previous matchups.
“It changes the focus of our preparation and it magnifies all the mistakes and stuff that we did wrong,” Allatoona coach Gary Varner said. “We won’t have the ability to say that we’ll be alright and that we have a week or two to get that fixed. It’s a lot different stress level.”
Both teams take pride in running the football and using their sizeable front lines to create gaps. And this game will likely come down to which team is more successful in running the ball and stopping the run.
The Buccaneers won’t be the youthful team that took the field last year, despite winning seven of their first eight games and returning to the state playoffs.
Cobb County’s top returning running back Josh Bettistea is looking to break 2,000 rushing yards after coming up 62 yards shy last season. His backup, Russell Halimon is also solid, and three starters return on the offensive line, led by Kent State commitment Conor Brunfield.
The Raiders defeated Allatoona 31-19 in the regular season finale last year and handed Allatoona a 25-7 loss to wrap up the 2012 regular season.
“We watched (East Paulding) scrimmage against Walton and they looked really good,” Varner said. “They are big and strong up front. They have a tailback (1,200-yard rusher Tae Ray) who is good, and two inside linebackers (led by Sonny Smith, who had 112 tackles) who are really good. They run the ball heavy and are monstrous up front. I don’t know where they’re getting these big kids."