The Pickens Dragons finishes out its sub-region schedule this Friday night, as the team heads south to take on the River Ridge Knights in Woodstock. The Dragons are currently 5-3 on the season, including last week’s 21-14 victory over the Johnson Knights, and will be facing off with a River Ridge Knights’ squad that holds a record of 1-7 and are fresh off of a 37-13 loss to the Gilmer Bobcats.
Last year’s meeting between the Dragons and the Knights in Jasper was the first matchup between these two teams and it was an instant classic, as the two teams battled back and forth before River Ridge capitalized on a turnover late in the fourth quarter and went on to win the game by the final score of 28-26. While last season’s Knights team turned some heads in Region 7-AAAA and eventually made the playoffs (where they lost 27-17 to Grady), Pickens looks to have the upper-hand in this year’s matchup, and one can assume that last season’s lost will only help motivate the Dragons even more.
The Dragons are gearing up to make their first playoff run since 2005, but in order for these dreams to become reality the offense has got to get back on track. Early on in the season, Pickens’ offense was extremely explosive, racking up over 350 yards in each of the team’s first six games and posting a little under thirty-seven points per game. Unfortunately, the offense has sputtered through the last two games (a 17-0 loss to Gilmer and a 21-14 win over Johnson), causing some concern as the season begins to wind down. Facing off with River Ridge may be just what the doctor ordered, as the Knights’ defense has struggled mightily this season, giving up thirty-four points or more in seven of the team’s eight games.
From a defensive standpoint, the only thing that Pickens needs to work towards is slowing down the opposing offense and forcing three-and-outs against the Knights. Johnson came into last week’s game as a heavy underdog (Georgia High School Football Daily had them as 25-point underdogs), but they were able to hang with the Dragons thanks to absolutely dominating the time of possession, including for the entire third quarter of the contest. River Ridge steps into this game in almost the same situation (GHSFD gives Pickens a 16-point advantage), so it is safe to assume that the Knights will follow a gameplan similar to Johnson’s and tire out the Dragons’ defense by using the clock to their advantage. Turnovers forced by Pickens saved the team last week, but another performance like the one put forth in Gainesville last week could result in River Ridge’s second straight upset over Pickens.
Prediction: The Dragons go through another slow start, which has been a constant for the better part of the 2013 campaign, in this matchup. Even at 0-0 after the first quarter of play, Pickens wakes up in the second quarter, which results in two touchdowns and the development of a much-needed rhythm on offense. Thanks to the good play in the second period, Pickens continues to make plays in the second half, and although the Knights put a scare into the Dragons in the fourth quarter, the road squad pulls out the much-needed sub-region victory. Final Score Pickens Dragons 35, River Ridge Knights 17