Cumby and Como-Pickton get to kickoff football season with home games this week.
The Cumby Trojans host Alba-Golden in non-district grid competition at Frazier-Lawrence Field.
Cumby starts the year as a 31-point home underdog to the visiting Panthers of Alba-Golden.
Alba-Golden is coming off a 5-6 playoff season. They begin the year with eight offensive and seven defensive starters returning.
Top players include Dalton Wright in the backfield and tight end defensive lineman Gus Peacock.
Cumby went 2-8 last year, including a 14-point loss at Alba-Golden. The Trojans’ spread attack is powered by quarterback Travis Taylor and running back Nick Folse behind a good offensive line.
"I think we have improved from last year, I don't think the predictions for the game are accurate," said Tom Dracos, Cumby head coach. "We're feeling pretty good about where we are and how we are playing. But you never know, especially in the first game."
Last season Dracos was the new coach in Cumby trying to install his program. Now, the Trojans have adjusted to his coaching methods and know the playbook.
"We are miles ahead of where we were this time last year," Dracos said. "We've had good practices. We need to have good execution on offense and defense."
Dracos joked that he likes everything that he's seen on the practice, but would eagerly welcome a nice gentle breeze to cool down the scorching conditions.
"I kept telling the kids it was not bad. That it was just 'warm.' But I was struggling it was so hot especially earlier this week," Dracos said. "But that's all part of football this time of year. We handle it well because we are in pretty good shape. Many of our players worked out this summer and we know we have to use several players on offense and defense. We'll see how we do in the second half of the first few games of the season."
The Trojans have another reason to be interested in Alba-Golden with a familiar face on the coaching staff. Gary Parrish, longtime Cumby football and powerlifting coach, is now employed by Alba-Golden.
"Having coach Parrish on the other side adds something to it for the kids," Dracos said. "They want to do well."
Dracos said, "I feel like we have a good game plan against them. I'm a spread offense coach and we used the spread. They are a power I team and like to keep the ball and pick up three or four yards at a time and wear you down. I don't know how they do it, I am not that patient. But it is what works for them, they have some large players."
"I think Alba-Golden has at least two guys about 300-pounds on the offense line. We just have one player 200 pounds on the line," Dracos said. "We can coach them and tell the players where to be. We can get a kid to gain 100 pounds in a week."
The Trojans are interested to see how their attack will work against the A-G defense.
"Our offense is getting better. It just takes time, I don't think any team is really sharp and has it all together in the first week," Dracos said. "The offense is always behind the defense."
Dracos said, "We are ready to play a game. We are chomping at the bit. People here are buying tickets and want to see a game. It's an exciting time at Cumby, we have a home game and the fans are ready. I know our plan looks good on paper, we will how it works out Friday night."
The Eagles will see if their hard work translates into a victory Friday night.
Como-Pickton players have been toiling in steamy afternoon practices at the high school football practice fields since early August. All in pursuit of improving at football.
Como-Pickton went 0-10 last year, scoring just once during the season.
The Eagles host Trenton at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Ron Heflin Field.
The Trenton Tigers also went 0-10 last season. They are three-point underdogs to the Eagles on opening night.
Como-Pickton again is led by head football coach Conley Bland. Bland is in his second stint as head coach at Como.
Bland said, “Trenton runs a spread type of offense and plays a 3-4 defense. They run the ball about 60 percent of the time, passing 40 percent.”
The coach added, “Our records have been similar in the past and they are as anxious as we are for a win. So it will be competitive. We have to eliminate penalties and turnovers if we are to win. Our team is excited about playing this schedule.”
The Eagles have the largest turnout for football in recent years. More than 40 players participated in drills which lasted two to three hours.
Como-Pickton has 23 lettermen, including nine offensive and nine defense starters returning from an 0-10 team.
Tight end Blake Neal has been listed as player to watch. Neal is a 6-0, 170-pounder with 4.7 speed.
Other top players include: linebackers Frankie Murillo and Carlos Villasenor, wide receiver Luis Lopez, fullback John Collins, quarterback Cody Fite, tailback Zach Robinson, linemen Blayke Pegues, Tanner Childers and Dakota Payton and tight end Brazos Knight.
Como-Pickton has shown some success in recent scrimmages scoring a total of three touchdowns.
The Eagles average more than five yards per carry rushing against Detroit. The Eagles were outscored 3-2.
Bland said his team needs to work more on the passing game and eliminate mistakes.
In the first scrimmage, Como-Pickton was blanked 2-0 by Linden-Kildare.
“Some of our inexperience showed up in that scrimmage,” Bland said. “We played really hard.”
Against Fruitvale, the Eagles took a 1-0 decision in the controlled scrimmage.
Bland said, “We need to improve on our fundamentals and be more physical.
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