Forget about the idea that last Friday’s sloppy conditions may have been a great equalizer. Rossview High felt it should have won its huge District 10-AAA showdown with No. 1-ranked Henry County.
The Patriots plodded through the rainy mess coming away with a 29-27 victory, essentially winning the game on what would be the result of a safety early in the second half.
The Hawks consider Henry County a game it let slip away and are in no mood to duplicate that result as Rossview plays host to rival Northeast at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We’re not any more confident having played Henry County well,” Rossview coach Ron Lambert said. “We didn’t play well enough to win and that’s the bottom line. I felt like Henry County wasn’t that much better than we were so regardless of what the weather was like, that was a game we felt we should have won. Losing isn’t a part of our makeup anymore so we’re confident going into any game because we know we can play with any team.”
That attitude may be the biggest reason why the Hawks have enjoyed a resurgence in the past two years. Rossview came close to a postseason berth last year, surprising most. This year, the Hawks are well on their way to the 6A playoffs but face another potential stumbling block in Northeast.
The Eagles, along with Henry County, have been the most consistent force in the district the past three years. Coach Isaac Shelby’s team suffered a rare offensive shutout against Clarksville High in another wet game last week. Northeast had five fumbles, lost two and was generally ineffective on offense. But its defense stood tall and special teams saved the day, blocking two Clarksville punts and scoring both times for a 14-7 victory.
But Northeast’s defense could have a much tougher time handling Rossview (4-1, 1-1). Isaiah Johnson is among the state’s top running backs in yardage. The past three games have watched him produce more than 200 yards on the ground. And quarterback Charles Talleyrand’s ability to extend plays on the fly makes the Hawks problematic.
“They have a lot of playmakers,” Shelby said. “Isaiah is incredible and Talleyrand is incredible. They have quality wide receivers so it’s not just those two.”
“We’re going to have to play really well and play within our scheme. Those two guys are almost too tough. Isaiah is one of the best around period. You just try to keep him from going off. Talleyrand makes plays on tape that make you sit back and hit rewind.”
Northeast, however, isn’t going to give ground easily. The Eagles (3-2, 2-0) have not lost to Rossview in the past five years and the last truly close game came in a 13-0 win for the Eagles in 2009. The Hawks have stayed with the Eagles for a half in the past two years only to watch Northeast run away with the game in the last two quarters.
“This has got a great chance to be really tight all the way through,” Shelby said. “But we don’t worry about the past a whole lot. The past is the past and these two teams are a really different. They’ve had great second halves this season so I wouldn’t be surprised if Rossview won out.”
With a dry field Friday, both teams expect their offensive production to increase. The Eagles, particularly, should benefit. Northeast may be quicker than a year before when Shelby helped guide his team to its second state quarterfinal appearance. Quarterback Montrell Pardue carried a heavy load in the second half last week but running back Dontavious Fort-Merriweather will try to get going along with Marquez McCalpin and Nate Williams.
“You’ve got to tackle those guys,” Lambert said. “If you don’t, you’re in for a long night. In order to do that, we’ve got to stay disciplined defensively. And we’ve talked about not letting last Friday’s loss linger. We can’t change that outcome against Henry County so we move on. We’re in the middle-third of our season and we’ve already talked about we want to play 15 games this year. That’s our goal.”