And the Eagles will play host to just that on Friday night when it welcomes traditional Region 6A-A rival Trion to Mt. Zion Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. showdown.
“We’ve been the road warriors. So with homecoming, a region game and playing at home, we’re expecting a good crowd and a good, tough ball game,” noted MZ coach Keith Holloway.
The Eagles (2-3, 1-1 Region 6A-A) are coming off their first region win since 2009 in a 55-0 thrashing of Southwest Atlanta Christian last Friday in Atlanta, but Holloway knows the Bulldogs (4-1, 0-1) will provide a much stiffer test for his team this week.
“Trion is Trion. They’re always big and physical. Their offensive and defensive line is huge. I’m pretty sure they average at least 250 pounds across the front. Coach [Justin] Brown’s done a great job of putting his team together this year. Offensively, they’re running the Speed-T and they run a lot of misdirection off of it that’s got us concerned. They’ve got one of the better quarterbacks in the region that can beat you with his arm and his feet. So we’ve got to be discipline this week and make our reads and make sure we tackle well,” Holloway said.
The Eagles’ flight to a successful start this year hasn’t just caught a few eyes and ears locally, as Mt. Zion was featured by the folks from Georgia High School Football Daily in a positive light on Tuesday.
In its report, GHSFD noted that according to the computer Maxwell Ratings, Mt. Zion is 41.3 points per game better in 2012 than it was last fall, making it the most improved team across all six classifications of Georgia thus far this season.
With two wins and their three losses by a combined nine points, the Eagles have flipped their misfortunes from a pair of winless seasons in 2010 and 2011 into a promising start to the 2012 campaign.
Holloway said it was nice to see those numbers Tuesday morning.
“That’s a great compliment. You know, we’ll take all the compliments we can get. Everything goes to the kids. The kids have worked hard and they’ve played four quarters all year. I think that’s made a big difference. They don’t give up. So as long as we do that, we’ve always got a chance,” Holloway said.
MZ senior tailback Nathan Bernhardt said his team was fired up for last week’s region win following the one-point loss to Christian Heritage the week before.
“It felt great, especially after a one-point loss. Those are worse. Those are terrible. I mean, it honestly hurts more than when you lose by 30,” Bernhardt said.
And now the Eagles are anxious for a tough Trion squad to roll into town this week.
“I’m just ready to play in front of the fans and show them how much we’ve improved since the first game. This ain’t the same team. Everybody plays hard on every play,” Bernhardt said.
Trion brings a familiar face back to Mt. Zion in Brown, the first-year Bulldog head man who served as an assistant at Mt. Zion under former Eagle coach Bill Bailey. Brown also coached at Temple and Villa Rica before accepting an assistant position at Trion and ultimately taking over as head coach this past offseason.
With Brown’s Bulldogs sitting at 4-1 — their lone loss came against Darlington — Holloway said an Eagle victory on Friday night would really be a shot in the arm for his team and its hopes of earning a postseason berth in the Class A state playoffs.
“A win would be huge. It would give us points in the power rankings, it would beat a team with a winning record. Trion’s only lost one game. So that would be huge. Even more so, we want to beat a team that we’re not supposed to. To the coaching staff, that’s when you know you’ve arrived,” Holloway said.