Bishop, Tigers to rely on experienced group in 2017
The Adairsville Tigers football team navigated some 'rough water' last season and failed to make the state playoffs for the first time in five years. The experience gained in the process, however, has head coach Eric Bishop encouraged moving into the 2017 season.
“We went through some growing pains last season,” reflected Bishop. “The 2015 seniors included a group of players that had been three or four year starters, so last year we only returned three starters on each side of the ball. Experience is paramount in high school football, so our inexperience showed in those early ball games.”
In fact, Adairsville lost its first three games to Ridgeland, Cass, and Model before picking up cross-over region wins over Ringgold and Murray County. They later added a win over Haralson County to finish the year 3-7.
“A three-win season is not the standard or the expectation at Adairsville, but it was something we had to go through,” said Bishop. “We still had a shot at the state playoffs in our tenth game, however, and if it were not for an inadvertent whistle on a potential “scoop and score” play with just over a minute remaining, we would have qualified for the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.”
The controversial play not only culminated a tough season for the Tigers, it was a difficult way for the final game to play out.
With 2016 behind them, Bishop is ready to see how his troops respond after a successful off-season.
“We’re excited for the experience gained last year and looking forward to this season,” said Bishop. “We return seven starters on each side of the ball, so that should help us in those early games. Missing the playoffs last year has definitely been a motivator in our program this off-season.”
Bishop discussed several key ingredients on the Tigers’ 2017 roster including Bryce Burgess, Mason Boswell, and Ethan Belcher.
Burgess (SB/DB, 5-10, 190, Sr.) has been an off-season leader for the Tigers according to Bishop. “He played five different postions for us in the spring and our team responds to his leadership,” he noted.
“Boswell (RB/DB, 6-0, 190, Jr.) is very athletic and dynamic on both sides of the ball,” Bishop continued. “He has shown signs of being a big-play guy on offense and a big hitter on defense.”
Bishop then referred to Belcher as vastly improved.
“Ethan (Belcher) (WR, 6-1, 160, Sr.) had a break-out season last year as a wideout. He’s a basketball player that did not play football until last year. He has worked really hard and continually improved this off-season. He has become our most polished receiver.”
Adairsville will compete in Region 6AAA and the league will again be sub-divided.
The Tigers will be in the South sub-region with Bremen, Calhoun, Haralson County, and Sonoraville. Region 6AAA North will be comprised of Coahulla Creek, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Murray County, North Murray, and Ringgold.
“There’s probably more parity in our region than ever before,” declared Bishop.
“Calhoun is the defending region champion and has been for some time now. They are obviously the favorite to repeat again. After Calhoun, however, there are a lot of quality teams. We have to be ready every week.”
The 2017 Tigers will play two of their first three games at home and will not leave Bartow County until mid-September.
“We will again play some larger schools in our pre-region schedule, Bishop said. “We hope those challenges will help prepare us for the cross-over region games and the sub-region games at the end of the schedule.”
Adairsville hosts Ridgeland to open the regular season August 18 and travels down the road to play at Cass on August 25. The Tigers then host Model on September 1 and follow that with an open week.
Region 6AAA cross-over games at Ringgold September 15 and at home with Murray County September 22 send the Tigers into their four sub-region games down the stretch.
Adairsville hosts Calhoun October 6 and Bremen October 20. They play at Sonoraville October 13 and at Haralson County October 27. The regular season concludes with either a region cross-over play-in game or a final consolation game.
In discussing the Tigers' schedule, Bishop did not hesitate to point to games that receive the most early attention.
“Our fans earmark the Calhoun game and have for many years. It’s big in our community, but so is the cross-county game with Cass and the opener with Ridgeland. That first game will be an important ‘tape-measure- type’ game for our team. They have a really solid program going.”
Bishop pointed to his offensive line as a genuine strength for this year’s team. Maddox Teems (6-1, 260, Sr.), Jonah Cline (5-8, 210, Sr.), Brayden Crunkleton (6-0, 200, Sr.), Brock Holland (6-0, 290, Sr.), Cameron O’Neal (5-11, 195, Sr.), and Josh Brown (6-2, 240, Jr.) are among those giving the head coach confidence.
“Our offense starts with our offensive line,” declared Bishop. “I feel very good about our guys up front. For the past few seasons our defensive line has been our best unit, but I think it’s fair to say the offensive line gets that nod at this point and returns the most experience.”
Bishop went on the talk about his offense.
“With our zone option offense, we know we have to be able to run the football,” he continued. “We aren’t changing much on offense schematically, but our emphasis will be more on the option game.”
Other key personnel ingredients for Bishop’s Tigers in 2017 will include Travon Branch (RB/CB, 5-4, 150, Sr.), Dakota Hughes (LB/TE, 6-3, 225, Jr.), Joseph Adcock (DL, 6-0, 220, Sr.), Reed Hughes (DB, 6-0, 180, Sr.), Daylon Bailey (DB, 5-5, 130, Sr.), Chance Jones (WR, 6-1, 175, Sr.), and Kyle Martin (LB, Jr.).
“We’ve had a ton of kids doing really good things this spring and summer,” Bishop continued. “All those kids and more have had a great off-season.”
ADAIRSVILLE TIGERS 2017 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Aug. 18 -- RIDGELAND
Aug. 25 -- at Cass
Sept. 1 -- MODEL
Sept. 8 -- open date
Sept. 15 -- at Ringgold
Sept. 22 -- MURRAY COUNTY
Sept. 29 -- open date
Oct. 6 -- CALHOUN
Oct. 13 -- at Sonoraville
Oct. 20 -- BREMEN
Oct. 27 -- at Haralson County
Nov. 3 -- at Region 6AAA Play-In Game
Editors Note: Tune in to Bartow’s Morning News on WBHF (100.3FM / AM1450) each morning for features on all four local football programs until the regular season openers. Woodland will be featured the week of July 24, Cass the week of July 31, Adairsville the week of August 7, and Cartersville the week of August 14.
The Bartow Sports Zone radio show on WBHF returns Friday, August 11 (7am to 9am each Friday) and will feature two of the four local head football coaches as guests each week.