Pope will try to bounce back from its loss to Kennesaw Mountain as it hosts Sprayberry on Thursday in a Region 6AAAAAA game at the Pope Multi-Sport Complex.

Pope (5-2, 4-1) fell just short in its bid to take control of first place in the region with its 21-17 loss to Kennesaw Mountain last week.

“We had our team meeting on Monday and they’re a resilient bunch,” Pope coach Tab Griffin said. “We kind of went over what we did and messed up on and what cost us the game, and we kind of moved on because, for us, this game is pretty significant. So I told them, it is what it is and it’s a good life lesson, and we kind of have to move on from there.”

The game marks the renewal of what was once a heated rivalry between the east Cobb schools located less than 4 miles from one another. It will be first time the teams have met since 2013.

Pope and Sprayberry were set to play in 2020 in their first season back as region rivals, but the game was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

“I grew up with the Pope-Sprayberry rivalry,” said Griffin, who, like his Sprayberry counterpart, Brett Vavra, graduated from their respective schools. “It’s always been there, though obviously we haven’t played in a while. It’s good to get back to playing those guys since they’re a few miles down the road and coach Vavra and I are pretty good friends, and it’s good to play against them.”

With its loss last week, Pope is second in the region — just ahead of Allatoona (3-1), Lassiter (4-2) and Kell (3-2) — with games at Osborne (Oct. 29) and at Allatoona (Nov. 5) remaining on its schedule.

Running back Phil Sims, quarterback Patrick Lowe and wide receiver Cam Bleshoy lead the Pope offense, while linebacker Adam Jump, who leads the county in sacks with nine, anchors the defense.

“They’re obviously a very good football team,” Vavra said. “They’re very big and physical on both sides of the ball. Probably more importantly, they’re very experienced. They’ve got a lot of seniors and juniors that have played a lot of varsity football for about two or three years.”

Meanwhile, Sprayberry (2-4, 2-3) will try to bounce back from a 43-7 loss to Allatoona last week.

After playing Pope, the Yellow Jackets have home games against Kell (Oct. 29) and Wheeler (Nov. 5) remaining on their schedule.

Running back Isaiah Abbey, one of the leading rushers in Cobb County with 784 yards, leads the Sprayberry offense, while linebacker Phillip Andoh is a key player on defense.

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