The No. 7 Braves (5-0, 3-0 Region 5-AA) have scored 40 or more points in every game this fall and average 44.2 points per contest, while the Blue Devils (4-1, 3-0) have only given up a combined 44 points through five games.
Needless to say, something will have to give when these two region title contenders square off under the lights in Franklin.
“Defensively, they’re physical and they run to the football. I don’t know if anybody’s scored more than 13 on their defense. So obviously they’re playing exceptional defense and they have skill kids that can bust the game open if you give them a little bit of space,” noted Heard County coach Tim Barron. “It’s definitely a big challenge for us. It really is.”
The Braves, who are opening a four-game homestand this week, have big-played their way to some prolific offensive numbers, but Barron said against a defense as physical as Manchester, they'll have to focus much more on execution.
“There’s no doubt. We can’t perform the way we did last week on either side of the ball. We’re going to have to play a much better football game than we played last Friday night,” Barron said of his team's 40-14 road win at Chattahoochee County last week.
Barron has been pleased with his team's workweek thus far, noting that he was concerned about how the guys would come out with no school on Monday or Tuesday.
"They actually went pretty good. They really did. It went better than we had hoped. You know, you always get nervous when you get them out of their normal routine. It allowed us to have a longer day on Tuesday. We practiced at 10 a.m. [Tuesday], and I felt like we had a good day. I really do,” Barron said.
Manchester owns the 7-6 edge in the all-time series, but the Braves have won six of the past seven meetings, including a 27-12 victory last year.
Of course, this is one of the biggest battles in the series in recent years, as far as the weight it carries toward the postseason. And while the winner can't clinch the region championship on Friday, whoever falls could potentially lose the opportunity to claim the region crown.
“There’s still a lot of football to be played before it’s all said and done in this region, because there’s so much parity amongst ourselves. Obviously, it’s a big game. Both of us are in a pretty good position right now. But I don’t think whatever takes place on Friday will make or break or determine right now who’s No. 1 in the region,” Barron said.
“We’ve still got Spencer, we’ve still got Bowdon and we’re still going to play some pretty dang good football teams. But it is going to play a lot into the seeding for the playoffs. It’s definitely going to do that.”