“DC has not been in the playoffs in five years,” Respert said. “So if our seniors go out, they have an opportunity to change the legacy of this program and to end that streak Friday night. They have put in the work this week to do that. We just have to go out there Friday and execute it.”
It was apparent at Wednesday’s practice that Douglas County (2-7, 1-3 Region 3-AAAAAA) understands how big the ramifications of Friday’s game against the Bulldogs (3-6, 1-3 Region 3-AAAAAA) are.
The Tigers all gathered around linebacker Shayne Carey after he dropped back in coverage during a two-minute drill, picked off a pass and ran it back for a touchdown to end the workout.
Judging by the team’s reaction to Carey’s heroics in the practice session, the touchdown might as well have been in a game with everything on the line.
And that’s the way Respert wants his Tigers to see things.
They trailed 31-13 last week at home against East Coweta, came back to get within 38-33 and drove the length of the field during a two-minute situation only to see a pass fall incomplete at the Indians 12-yard line as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“We’ve been getting better and better on defense, and against East Coweta last Friday night we didn’t perform the way we’ve been coached to perform,” Respert said. “Our coaches have been challenged, our players have been challenged and they’ve accepted it and improved their practice this week.”
The Tigers will have the services of Anthony Garner, their second-leading rusher and receiver and leading scorer, who missed the past two games with a severe ankle sprain.
Anthony Graves and Terrell Gibson have stepped up with Garner out, and the three, along with quarterback Ellis Richardson, give the Tigers multiple offensive weapons against a Tri-Cities defense giving up an average of 26 points a game.
On offense, Tri-Cities runs everything from power-I formations to four-wide sets.
“They have it all at their disposal offensively,” Respert said.
Despite their lackluster record, the Bulldogs nearly upset Region 3-AAAAAA champion Langston Hughes last week, falling 17-13.
Respert said a big key to winning Friday and earning a playoff berth will be shutting down Tri-Cities’ run game.
Defensive end Michael Parris, who Respert said is probably his best defensive player, is back after missing time due to injury. Linebacker Jeffrey McMichael, cornerback Germaine Burroughs and Carey will also be counted on to step up.
“Our kids are resilient,” Respert said. “No longer do we just throw in the towel. Our kids fight and scratch and claw. That’s what’s kept us in our region games. That’s what’s gotten us to the position where we can make the playoffs.”