Marietta has tradition its side in the matchup as the Blue Devils hold a 7-1 record in the series, but the Greyhounds have had the most recent success after compiling a 23-10 record over the past three seasons. Despite Pope’s achievements, this matchup represents a step up for the Greyhounds against a Marietta program that has been forecasted to make the playoffs and possibly go on a deep postseason run.
“I don’t know if I’d go so far as to put this (game) in that category (of the I-75 battle),” Pope coach Matt Kemper said. “But this is a big step for us. Marietta is a great team. They’re well-coached with a special player in their quarterback (Anthony Jennings).
“The whole team is extremely athletic with lots of guys that can contribute on offense and defense. They do a lot of things right.”
According to Marietta coach Scott Burton, the Blue Devils are capable of doing a lot things right. One thing they must work on, however, is discipline. In a 38-29 setback at home last week to Newnan, Marietta was “statiscally successful” but lacked the means necessary to use that to its advantage.
“It was one of those situations where you can accept it a lot easier when the other team just outplays you,” Burton said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow when you have a hand in your own undoing. Watching film of the game confirmed that we have to play with more discipline. The turnovers and the penalties cost us, and that’s a sign of needing more of that and more focus. We’ve worked hard this week and the kids are responding.”
Where Marietta’s issues appear to be mental, Pope’s are in personnel.
The Blue Devils have already played one game and are working on the things that need to be corrected. The Greyhounds, on the other hand, are playing in their season opener with a lot of question marks, particularly at quarterback and wide receiver, where Holland Frost and Myles Everett, respectively, were the 1-2 punch in Pope’s offense.
“Those guys played a huge role in our success the past couple years and now they’re gone,” Kemper said. “So, we’re going to have to find guys who are willing to step up and take on those roles.”
Stephen Skruck beat out two other players for the Greyhounds’ quarterbacking duties, while Carson Day, Mason Shiflett, Logan Carr and Ben Doran will handle the load at wide receiver.
“We’re still going to run the option and be an option team like we were with Holland,” Kemper said. “Hopefully, though, we’ll be more balanced. (Skruck) is a young man that can run our offense, too. But we don’t want to put too much on him.
“Holland did a lot.0 He was able to do pre- and post-reads off the defense and made it look easy. We’re going to work Skruck in and hopefully, be more balanced and spread the ball around more effectively to our wide receivers.”
Marietta already had the offensive balance it was looking for against Newnan, totaling 213 yards on the ground and 227 in the air. What the Blue Devils couldn’t do was stop Pope from scouting them.
“I think (Pope) has an advantage because they’ve seen us in action and because they’ve had an extra week of practice,” Burton said. “They’re also home to open the season, so they have a lot of motivation on their side to do well.”