The Commerce High School football team won’t have to wait much longer for its first challenge of the regular season. The lights will be on and the gates will be open at Ray Lamb Stadium as the Tigers host a familiar foe.
Banks County will head into Commerce on Friday looking to get its season off on the right foot after a disappointing 0-10 campaign in 2013. But for Commerce head coach Michael Brown, the past is the past. And he fully expects a challenge from the Leopards.
“Last year doesn’t matter. We are both 0-0. This is 2014 and what happened last year does not matter for them or us.”
Brown said his squad had a productive final week of practice before the regular season-opener.
“One of the big things that we wanted to focus on last week was Commerce,” said Brown. “What I mean by that is, getting better at the things that we do. We made too many mistakes in the scrimmage, so we spent the week really trying to improve what we do.”
This week, the Tigers coaching staff is working towards finalizing a game plan to combat the Leopards’ talent, and relaying that plan to its offensive and defensive players.
“Obviously we are going to spend the week with our kids to try and give them looks that Banks County gives offensively, but you can’t really mimic — with your scout teams — the execution of another team’s offense. In the case of Banks County, they do have some receivers that can run. We can’t mimic that speed with scout team players. You do the best you can to get our kids ready to process what they are doing offensively. I think we’ve done a good job of that.”
Banks County head coach Biff Parson believes Commerce’s offense is equally difficult to plan for.
“It’s hard to simulate what they do in practice with the triple-option,” said Parson. “We don’t have a quarterback to run that and we aren’t going to get a full-speed look. We are just trying to learn our assignments and alignments.”
Brown expects the Leopards to run the ball aggressively and try to open up options in their spread-based passing game. The Leopards will look to a robust defensive line to try and stop Commerce’s ground attack. “When I look at them defensively, their front three are as big and physical as anybody we are going to see this year,” said Brown, referring to Leopard linemen Trent Cape, Daniel Jarrell and Jared Slaton.
A ONE-SIDED RIVALRY
If Banks County were to emerge victorious on Friday night, it would be the first time in 21 years – and the first time ever at Commerce’s home field.
The Tigers have been playing the Leopards off and on since 1970. Commerce came out on top in 26 out of the 28 contests between the two teams and is 14-0 at home.
The Leopards’ only two wins came in 1990 and 1992. Since then, Commerce has owned the series, winning in 11 straight tilts.
Even though the series is largely one-sided, both teams view each other as respected rivals. Banks County head coach Biff Parson is all too aware of the history between the two teams, calling “tradition” Commerce’s greatest weapon.
“Commerce always has good players,” said Parson. “The biggest player they got is called ‘tradition.’ They’ve been successful for years. That’s one of the biggest weapons they have, especially against Banks County, because we haven’t had a lot of success going against them. ”
Whether or not Commerce will extend its streak or Banks County will break the cycle is yet to be determined. But players, coaches and fans on both sides expect a battle.
“The season is now upon us and we get to open up with our biggest rival,” said Parson. “Everybody calls it a rivalry, but we have to be able to compete and win some games to make it a true rivalry. We have a big challenge ahead of us. We expect a big crowd and a great atmosphere and we want to be able to compete.”
“I expect a four-quarter, physical football game,” added Brown. “I think the kids on both sides will play hard. It’s a rivalry game. There will be a lot of emotion. Hopefully we will have good attendance from both schools and it will be an exciting atmosphere.”
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