The Pickens Dragons have their biggest game this Friday, as the team hosts the Northwest Whitfield Bruins with a playoff berth awaiting the winner. This game will be the second meeting between the Dragons, who sit at 6-3 this season, and the 8-1 Bruins, as Northwest Whitfield defeated Pickens in Tunnel Hill by the final score of 25-13 on September 13th.Most of the time it is hard to accurately analyze high school matchups because of the uncertainty that surrounds both squads going it, but the fact that these two teams have already faced off may provide an effective preview for this matchup. Fast-forwarding back to the Dragons’ twelve-point loss in September, the main reason for the loss was turnovers: When it was all said and done, Pickens coughed up the football six times yet still only lost by twelve points, making it quite obvious that the Dragons had a very realistic shot at beating a Bruins team that’s only loss came at the hands of the Dalton Catamounts (Dalton defeated Northwest 31-28). These two teams have had whirlwind seasons following their meeting back at the start of the year, as the Bruins followed the win over the Dragons with five games of 45 points or more and the Dragons responded with five wins and four games of forty-one points or more.
Although Pickens has rebounded from two tough losses in a row at the hands of Cedartown and Gilmer with two consecutive wins, it will be critical for the offense to get going early on in this contest. While the points have not come at a premium for Pickens this season, scoring early has been a struggle; the Dragons are averaging a little over seven points in the opening quarter of play, which may be dangerous considering the fact that Northwest Whitfield is coming off a 77-point outing against the Lafayette Ramblers. Pickens even struggled a bit last week against the River Ridge Knights before taking control of the game with twenty points in the fourth, which leaves Friday’s game with considerable question marks. Will the Dragons show up on Friday and trade scores with the Bruins? Only time will tell.
The Pickens Dragons’ defense has played very well in 2013, but none of what has already happened will matter if the unit does not show up ready to negate Northwest Whitfield’s attempt to post points. In order for the Dragons to hinder the Bruins’ offense, the team will have to put pressure on Northwest Whitfield quarterback Caleb Shiflett, who only had 124 passing yards in the prior meeting. Pickens has been extremely opportunistic in regards to creating turnovers, which will make it important for the likes of seniors Thomas Howard (155 tackles, 3 forced fumbles) and Silas Lott (62 tackle, 7 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles) to make their presences known as soon as possible. Playing aggressive defense will not only force Northwest Whitfield to tighten down offensively in order to avoid game-changing mistakes, but it will also alleviate some of the pressure on the Dragons’ offense to score every single drive.
Prediction: The Dragons find themselves in trouble early in this contest, falling behind 21-7 at halftime. However, Pickens comes roaring back to life in the third quarter, rallying to score two touchdowns thanks to some heads up plays by Shannon Brooks and Jake Dean. Tied 21-21 going into the fourth, the game remains a stalemate until 5:43 left in regulation, when Zack Hermann returns a punt deep into Northwest Whitfield territory. Determined to take the lead and extend their season, the Dragons drain the clock and finally score on a six yard run by Brooks on third and goal, giving Pickens a 28-21 lead with 3:30 left in the game. The Bruins respond and make a late push to even the game at four touchdowns a piece, but a fumble ends their hopes at pulling out the road victory. The Dragons win the game and clinch their first playoff appearance since 2005. Final Score Northwest Whitfield Bruins 21, Pickens Dragons 28