Perkins had seen lots of game film of the Lions and No. 16 – senior linebacker and Lithia’s leading tackler Joseph Ross – made a big impression. Perkins watched one game where he and his staff stopped counting tackles after Ross hit 20.
Dean told Perkins: “He’s a better human being than he is a football player and he’s pretty good at that.”
Perkins said: “Coach, I’ll tell you what, you just leave 16 here with me. We’ll take him on this team any day.”
Ross, along with nose guard Tony Watkins and defensive end Julian Morgan will lead a Lions defense that will again be tasked with slowing down a powerful region opponent when No. 3 East Paulding visits Lithia Springs Friday.
The Raiders (8-0, 8-0 Region 5-AAAAA) have outscored their opponents by an average of 43-8. They run the Pro-I on offense and have all of the requisite role players, including a 6-foot-5 quarterback, a tailback Dean called “all-world,” a standout fullback and a big tight end.
East Paulding’s offense will be a big contrast from a week ago when the Lions (1-7, 1-7 Region 5-AAAAA) faced a Rome team running the wing-T without motion, making it difficult for Lithia defenders to keep track of the ball.
“I love their type of football,” Dean said. “It’s certainly downhill, in-your-face – a lot of power and a lot of iso. You don’t leave that game wondering where the football went, who’s got the ball. They run it right down your throat.”
Lithia Springs can take some comfort in knowing a 4-4 South Paulding team nearly upset the Raiders last week. The Spartans trailed 13-10 heading into the final quarter before falling 21-16.
South Paulding kept it close in part by controlling the tempo with its offense.
Lithia Springs’ offense has shown it has the potential to do the same over the past two weeks. It was assistant coach Scotty Parker’s idea to run two blocking backs – Ross and Antonio Reed – ahead of senior wingback Avonte Boyd.
Boyd’s numbers say it all. The senior has racked up over 400 yards of total offense and six touchdowns in the Lions’ last two games.
Lithia beat Woodland 27-14 two weeks ago with help from Boyd’s four TDs and played with the Wolves last week before being undone by two long touchdowns, a turnover and two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a 35-14 loss.
“If I take solace in anything, we’ve had our opportunities in the majority of games we’ve played this year,” Dean said. “We just haven’t been able to close the deal. I really think we’re a little bit better than a lot of people think. We just can’t get out of our own way.”