The No. 1 seed in Region 7AAAAA (B) is up for grabs, and Pope and Kell both know it.
When the two teams meet tonight at Cobb Energy/Corky Kell Stadium, the winner will take the No. 1 seed going into next week’s region play-in game against No. 4 from 7AAAAA (A) to determine the seeds for the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
“Obviously, the thing we want other than a state championship is a region championship,” Kell coach Derek Cook said. “It’s a big game for our school, community and region. If we’re able to beat Pope, we will be playing the No. 4 team from (the other subregion). You like your chances, but we still have to play the game and win it.”
Pope (6-2, 3-0) is still in position to win its second straight region title despite losing most of its skilled players on offense, led by quarterback Holland Frost and receiver Myles Everett.
Running backs Ronald Woods and Itabari Mason have emerged as the season progressed and are running up the yards, thanks to a young and successful offensive line. Brooks Climmons was in the mix as well but is now playing mostly linebacker.
The duo of Woods and Mason helped Pope win six straight games after losing its first two to begin the season.
“We have had these guys emerge and it’s the result of our offensive line playing well,” Pope coach Matt Kemper said. “We’re decent up front and we’re young but we’re making some holes.
“It’s always a great game when you play Kell. It may not be the backyard brawl like Lassiter and Sprayberry, but we’ve had some great games with them over the last few years. We feel blessed to be in this position.”
This game may be determined by which offense can stay on the field the longest.
The Greyhounds could be tested offensively by a Kell front seven that’s normally fast and likes to attack the backfield. Ethan Elliott is leading Kell (7-1, 3-0) with eight sacks on the season, Grant Morgan has four on the year, and Michael Valero and Zach Cloer have three each.
And the Greyhounds will have to be proficient in throwing the ball against one of the more talented secondaries in the state. South Carolina-commitment Brendan Langley already has five interceptions on the year.
“They are what they are,” Cook said of Pope’s offense. “They are big and physical. They have a couple of different quarterbacks and we have to be prepared for both running backs. Offensively, they can present a bunch of different things that we have to be aware of.”
Kell will attempt to establish the run just like Pope and Cook stresses the need to take care of the football.
The Longhorns have been using a committee of four to five running backs to move the ball but it seems that Jamari Moore and Khalil Bell have gotten most of the snaps of late.
Moore brings speed to the backfield with 591 rushing yards on the year on 71 carries and Bell has 387 yards on 84 carries but has nine touchdowns to Moore’s three.