Many of the seniors who take the field as starters do so after having watched from the sidelines for three seasons as the program grew into the successful team it has become. It was something this class wanted to make sure did not change under their watch.
“This group of seniors, I think, was very much overlooked going into this year,” Buccaneers coach Gary Varner said. “People were thinking that we weren’t going to be very good this year. We lost all those seniors last year. I think it’s been a great year for them so far.
“I think they are excited about where we are going into senior night so I think it will be exciting for them.”
With seven seniors starting on the defensive side of the ball and the entire offensive line playing as starters for the first time in their career, Varner said he expects a solid performance from each of them every week.
“They put in three hard years of work, waiting their turn,” he said. “They took their lumps on scout teams and now they are able to start for the first time as seniors. I think it’s extra special for those kids.”
Hiram (3-4, 3-4 in Region 5AAAAA) will challenge seventh-ranked Allatoona (7-0, 7-0) with speed on offense — particularly in the form or running back Jamal Hinds, who can be hard to stop once he gets moving and has big-play potential.
Varner cautions that the Hornets’ sub-.500 record is deceptive.
“They’ve played a lot of tough teams really well,” he said. “They have a high skill level and a lot of skill at the skill positions. So they are a very dangerous team.”
Coming into tonight’s game, the Buccaneers are one of only two Cobb County teams that have secured a playoff berth, but that is not the ultimate goal. Right now, Allatoona finds itself tied with East Paulding for the region lead. If the Buccaneers can win this week, and then next week against North Paulding, they could find themselves in a season finale against East Paulding with the region title on the line.
However, the greatest challenge for Allatoona against Hiram is trying to avoid a start like it has last week. The offense struggled at the start — thankfully their Week 9 opponent Villa Rica was slow moving too — and the game was scoreless after the first quarter. It did finally take control of the game and went on to win 38-7, but it still is a cause for concern.
Varner said the team has discussed the sluggish start and what can be done to prevent a repeat performance.
“I don’t know if it was lack of focus. If it was just one of those games,” said Varner. “But we have definitely talked about it. You don’t want to put yourself in that position often when you start slow. For the most part this year we have not done that. We have started fast.”
For the Buccaneers offense, a good start would mean quickly picking up the Hiram defensive, which relieves heavily on blitzing and deception.