Game: Pope (0-0) at Walton (1-0), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Walton 33, Pope 10
All-time series: Walton leads 18-8
Prediction: Walton 27, Pope 17
Having a bye on the opening week of the season can be a disadvantage.
It was an extra week Pope had to wait before they can compete against anyone but themselves. While the Greyhounds are eager to take the field, they expect to have their hands full when they face east Cobb rival Walton at Raider Valley. Pope will also be facing a team that has already played a game.
Still, the Greyhounds appear ready to face such a test. They will be younger than they were a year ago, but they are also healthier following a injury-riddled season in 2019. They should also benefit from having more depth on their roster.
“Our guys are obviously ready,” Pope coach Tab Griffin said. “It’s been an abnormally long preseason. We went through a mock game and the guys were excited to have some sort of competition. Now they are ready to have competition against somebody else.”
Pope appears to be in good shape on offense.
All five starters on the offensive line are returning. Senior running back Joe Stellmach, who has committed to Air Force, is at full strength after injuring his sternum halfway through last season. Peyton Cariaco is slated to be the starting quarterback.
While Pope graduated nine starters on defense, most of the new starters have already competed at the varsity level.
Walton has already gotten rid of its first-game jitters. The Raiders fell behind early against Kell last week before scoring 19 unanswered points to win 35-28.
Running back Braylen Stokes stepped up with two second-half touchdowns, including the 29-yard game winner. Quarterback Zak Rozsman also chipped in with a 25-yard touchdown run.
“We feel good about what we did on Friday night,” Walton coach Daniel Brunner said. “Our first game and not having spring ball, we knew there would be mistakes. I’m just happy we came out of that game with a W. I felt like we were tested and hopefully we’ll get better week by week.”
Brunner said the key is to win the turnover battle, penalties and field position. The Raiders beat Kell despite losing the penalty and turnover battle.