Throw out the hoopla. Keep the pageantry to the spectators.
Keep the trash talk on social media.
The 2020 Hog Mountain Bowl will be settled on the football field.
Both coaches know their teams better than anyone.
Both teams will run into Warrior Stadium without a scrimmage, a spring practice and a shortened summer workout slate.
Most of the players will simply be happy to play a football game. There’s familiarity.
Not only do players from both teams know one another, they just played each other in December for a Region 8-4A championship. Oconee County High School routed North Oconee High School 35-7 in last season’s ‘Hog Mountain Bowl’.
That won’t be on the line on Friday night.
The winner will simply get to brag and be 1-0 to start 2020. Here’s three things both teams will need to do to earn their bragging rights on Friday.
The Titans will be the road team. Here’s how they can steal back the Hog Mountain Bowl trophy.
NOHS head coach Tyler Aurandt knows that the Warriors place a premium on physicality at the line of scrimmage.
The Titans will be asked to match that.
“They play a physical style of football,” Aurandt said.
Turnovers by the Titans stalled a few attempts to get back into last season’s game with the Warriors. If the Titans can take care of the football, they could limit the Warriors’ opportunities to put points on the scoreboard and slow their momentum.
“That’s one thing that will haunt you at the beginning of the season,” Aurandt said. “A critical mistake where you jump offside on a third and short, or you turn the ball over. You try and limit those things.”
Get in shape
The preparation for the 2020 season took a four-month pause. There wasn’t a spring practice to get some contact in.
There hasn’t been scrimmage games to get used to game-speed.
The Georgia High School Association cut teams loose for workouts in June. It’s been a slow climb toward getting teams acclimated and preparing for games.
The Georgia heat is still in full blaze in early September and it will be as demanding as it always is and maybe even more so this season. Both teams have been practicing in the mornings for much of the restart.
Friday, the team that has prepared the best physically may be the team that holds the advantage.
“The heat [is tough],” Aurandt said. “We practice in the morning. We just switched to the afternoon. All those things are going to become a factor any time you play your first ball game. Usually, that’s a scrimmage game and now it’s game one. Trying to get them acclimated to playing four quarters and being in shape to play all four quarters is going to be the difference in the game.”
The Warriors’ approach is similar.
Limit the big plays
OCHS’ head coach Travis Noland has a ton of respect for NOHS senior quarterback Bubba Chandler. He knows that Chandler and the Titans’ offense are going to make their share of plays.
The Clemson University commit, will pilot an experienced offensive unit on Friday night. The Warriors have to keep them from making big plays all night. The Warriors need to hold the Titans to a few big plays and not a lot of big plays.
It sounds simple.
“They’re going to get some big plays, we’ve got to limit the ones they get because they’ve got a big armed quarterback and with that comes the threat of the big play,” Noland said.
Eliminate missed assignments
Much like the Titans, the Warriors don’t want to make a bunch of mental errors. That much is true in every game on the schedule.
Mental errors will make it difficult to beat any opponent, much less a team as familiar as the Titans are.
“If we can’t execute what we’re doing, it really doesn’t matter who the opponent is,” Noland said. “We can’t beat ourselves.”
Be the Warriors
OCHS needs to be true to who they are. Noland knows that there are now even higher expectations for the Warriors after a state championship game appearance last season.
The 2020 Warriors aren’t the 2019 Warriors. They’re not the same team. They have a chance to have a successful season, but they’ll need to find what makes this year’s team tick.
“We’ve got to play within who we are and not try to be last year’s team or expect to be where we were at the end of last season,” Noland said. “We’re just beginning our journey as a team this year. We’ve got to stay within who we are and do what we do. Hopefully, we’ll execute.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday night at Warrior Stadium.