Game: East Paulding (0-2) at Kell (2-1, 0-1) , 7:30 p.m.
Last year: East Paulding 33, Kell 31
All-time series: Kell leads 3-2
Prediction: Kell 28, East Paulding 21
Kell will continue its search for its first Region 7AAAAA win Friday when it receives a visit from East Paulding.
The Raiders (0-2), coached by former Sprayberry coach Billy Shackleford, edged the Longhorns (2-1, 0-1) last season 33-31, and while both teams look significantly different this season, Kell coach Brett Sloan said he thinks his team will be in for another close game this year.
“Every game in this region is just so tough,” he said. There are a lot of good football teams, so we know what we need to do. We just have to take it one week at a time. We’re just trying to get to 3-1 and 1-1 in the region this week. Then, next week, we’re going to try to get to 3-1 in the region.”
The Longhorns got their first taste of a close region game last week when they fell 21-20 to defending region champion Rome.
Sloan said that game should be a valuable learning experience for his young team, though.
“We’re getting closer to where we want to be,” Sloan said. “We lost a Division I quarterback and a Division I running back, so we’re working to replace them. I think we’re moving in the right direction. We just realized we have to get some of those little things right that can really make a difference.”
The most improvement may need to come on the offensive side, where Kell has averaged 21.3 points per game this season, though Sloan said he has seen quarterback Corbin LaFrance make strides this season.
Jaylon Brown has also made plays for the Longhorns’ offense this year, and both will be key against an East Paulding defense led by linebacker Maverick Hering.
“We have to be balanced,” Sloan said. “We have to keep them off balance and find ways to move the ball consistently. If we can find ways to stay ahead of the chains and avoid third-and-long situations, I think we have a chance to do some good things.”
Hering will also play running back for the Raiders, but Kell’s biggest test will be defending dual-threat quarterback Skyler Melton.
The Longhorns have only allowed 11 points per game defensively this season, including a shutout of Lassiter, but their discipline will be tested this week.
“It’s about staying on your assignment,” Sloan said. “We have to keep contain. That quarterback can really hurt you if you let him get the edge with his speed. It can be hard against an offense like that to stick to your job, but it’s going to be important this week.”