“Obviously, there’s no tune-up, so they all count from the get-go. You know every week that if your plan is to make the playoffs, they’re all important. You know in football you’re only guaranteed 10 — so they’re all important — but there’s a little added importance now,” Falleur said.
The Wildcats, who went 6-4 in Falleur’s first year in charge in 2011, move into an 11-team region in Class AAAAA that includes former Region 5 members from Class AAAA in East Paulding, North Paulding, Paulding County, Hiram, Lithia Springs and South Paulding. The newcomers are Allatoona from Class AAA, Rome and Woodland-Cartersville from Region 7 out of Class AAAA and then New Manchester, a second-year school out of Douglasville that is playing its first year of varsity competition.
Allatoona went 12-1 and reached the state quarterfinals in Class AAA last season, while East Paulding was 11-2 in Class AAAA and also made it to the quarterfinals. Rome was 7-4 and fell in the opening round of the Class AAAA state playoffs in double overtime last season to round out the three returning playoff squads.
“I think those are all quality teams. Allatoona went to the quarterfinals. Rome, they’re always tough. Then I think New Manchester is going to be pretty darn good being able to get all those good players from a bunch of different schools. I think it will be similar to what we’ve been in. I think we know most of them and we’ve played most of them. It’ll be a little bit better geographically for us,” Falleur said.
The Wildcats have their open week in Week 1 of the regular season before kicking off the 2012 campaign at home against South Paulding on Sept. 7. And while Falleur understands it will be tough on his squad to play 10 straight games without an open week once the schedule begins, he said the biggest challenge early in the year will be getting all his younger players up to speed.
He said having guys in the program for a year has been critical in moving forward, but Falleur said he’ll still have to rely on some underclassmen to step up this fall.
“Yeah, there’s no doubt it’s a lot different than it was the first year. But in our situation, there’s going to be some young guys that have to play. There’s actually going to be somewhere between six-to-10 sophomores that will likely be playing. So, yeah, you’re not starting over because you knew them as ninth-graders, but at that level you’re starting from scratch,” Falleur said.
The VR coach has been encouraged by what he’s seen thus far this summer as the ‘Dead Week’ wraps up on Sunday.
“They’ve done a great job. They’ve been there all summer. We’ve gone to three different camps. The attitude’s been great. They know what we’re doing. Now they just have to learn to do it at the speed and the intensity that you’ve got to have on Friday,” Falleur said.
Starting back on Monday, the Wildcats return to conditioning, lifting and hitting some passing camps leading up to the first week of official practice. Falleur said his linemen are going three days a week, with the skill guys going four days a week heading into July 25.
“Since we have the first week off as our open week, we’re going to use that whole first week as just those five conditioning days you’ve got to have before you put on the pads,” Falleur said.