But when the Cherokees head north to Staples Stadium for the 7:30 p.m. Region 5-AA contest on Friday, the Heard County High School football coach is expecting a much tougher test in the third meeting in three years between the two programs.
“I mean, there’s no doubt. Looking at them on film from this year to last year — and not only from this year to last year — but just the first couple of games in watching them play against Bowdon and Temple, they’re a whole lot better team than they were last year,” Barron said. “They’re just much-improved. They get to the football on defense, they keep it simple on offense — they’ve got athletes and they put it in their hands. So it’s completely different going into the game from last year.”
The Cherokees (1-3, 1-1 Region 5-AA) got their first win of the season last week in a 34-0 victory over Temple, but they have competed in every game thus far, including holding an 8-6 halftime advantage over Bowdon in the region opener on Sept. 14 and dropping a 21-20 overtime decision to Marion County — a Class A second-round playoff squad last season — on Sept. 7.
The Braves (3-0, 1-0) are preparing for a Kendrick squad that features a big front line and plenty of speed at the skill spots.
“You know, they’re executing what they do and they’re much more efficient this year than they were last year,” Barron said. “As far as us matching up, it could be a very challenging night, really, because of how big they are up front and how well they do run.”
Of course, the Braves have their fair share of talent for Kendrick to deal with, as well. Heard County put up a third consecutive 40-plus point performance to open the season in its 49-35 victory over Bremen last week in its region opener. The Braves are now averaging 46.3 points per game in 2012, but Barron said his offense will have to tweak a few things this week.
“We’re going to have to make some adjustments to what they do. They run a lot of man in the secondary. So we’re just going to have to run things a little differently offensively than what we’ve been doing. We’ve just got to adjust a bit what we’re doing offensively. Not a great deal, but just some. Put a few things in there that will be different,” Barron said. “They get to the football so well, we’re just going to have to be more patient than what we’ve been in the first couple of games.”
The Braves are beginning to get noticed around the state for their strong play early in the year, as they received votes in the latest Class AA AP Poll, coming in at No. 13 this week.
And coming off an emotional win over the Blue Devils, Barron and the Heard County coaching staff are trying to keep the Braves energized for another important game this week.
“Coming off a big win, it’s always tough to get the kids back up to play at that level again. I don’t know if you can physically get them back up in back-to-back weeks or not to play at that level. You just hope that the kids play hard enough and execute well enough that they’ll be OK,” Barron said.
With Friday marking the last of a three-game homestand before the Braves hit the road for Chattahoochee County next week, Barron said all the focus needs to remain on Kendrick until the final horn goes off Friday night.
“I know coaches say it all the time, but we’re not even looking ahead right now. We’re just worried about finding a way to be 4-0,” Barron said. “You hear the cliché, ‘Take it one game at a time,’ and you have to. If we don’t come out and we don’t execute well and we don’t play good this week, then Kendrick will beat us. That’s the bottom line. They’re good enough that they can come in here and beat us if we don’t play well.”