By SAM McGAW
Extreme Escape Games Game of the Week Preview
Centennial at Franklin, 7 p.m. Friday
Matt Kriesky won’t get the chance to ease into his debut as Centennial’s head coach Friday.
Not only is his first game against his team’s biggest rival in Franklin High, but he’s also tasked with defeating the man that’s mentored him since high school: Franklin head coach Donnie Webb.
“He’s a huge mentor to me, a huge role model,” said Kriesky, who played for Webb at Henry County High School. “I think a lot of Coach Webb. I idolized him whenever I was in high school. A lot of things I do, coaching-wise, come from him and some of his philosophies. It’s going to be tough for me. I’m probably going to be a little more worked up and nervous than him.”
Rebels’ Offense vs. Cougars’ Defense
A major focal point for Kriesky over the past few weeks has been getting his defense prepared to defend the Rebels’ triple-option attack.
“Everybody has to do their job,” Kriesky said. “We’ve been working on it the past two weeks. I feel like we got a little bit better, but it’s tough. It’s a really, really good offense. They do a lot of good things to make everybody be disciplined and responsible for their own jobs.”
Franklin will use Wes Patterson and Carter Hendry at quarterback this week.
Patterson brings some experience to the position after seeing time behind Kyle Evans last season. He finished the year with 271 passing yards, 96 rushing yards, six total touchdowns (3 run) and three interceptions.
Mitch Rossi is expected to receive a bulk of the carries at running back. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound bulldozer recorded 242 receiving yards, 54 rushing yards and five touchdowns as an H-back last year.
Paving the way for Rossi in the trenches is an experienced offensive line, which features tackles Max Wray (Georgia commit) and Caden Williams.
“They got two very talented offensive tackles and an even better running back, so we’re expecting a lot of ground-and-pound from them,” senior nose guard/offensive guard Eli Katina said. “They run the option, so we’re expecting a lot of different things; a lot of different eye candy.”
If the Cougars get lulled to sleep by the rushing attack, wide receivers Alex Gaca and JP Batarseh will be ready to make them pay.
Gaca was the team’s main deep threat last season, averaging 35 yards per catch. He finished with 13 receptions for 455 yards and five touchdowns.
“When in doubt, we have to get depth,” Centennial safety Austin Waddell said. “The eye candy that they run with that triple option, we can’t fall for it.”
Cougars’ Offense vs. Rebels’ Defense
First-year starting quarterback Tre Stewart commands the Cougars’ spread offense.
His top weapons include running back John Carter and wide receivers Devious Christmon, Waddell and Senturian DuReaux.
“Their quarterback is really athletic,” Webb said. “Their coaches are doing some really good things, formation-wise. They’re doing some shifts and moving things around. They’re trying to get the ball to their best players by outflanking us. That’s what’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Christmon led the Cougars in receiving last season with 32 catches for 544 yards and three touchdowns, Waddell racked up 22 catches for 391 yards and four scores.
“We know they can get it done on the ground and through the air,” Franklin outside linebacker/running back Collin Saulters said. “They’ve always got good athletes. They’re probably a little more athletic than us. They use what they got exceptionally well every time we play them.”
Franklin’s defense is led by two all-region selections in linebacker Rossi and defensive end Conner Palk.
The unit also returns starting linebackers Zach Polisky and Harrison Brown, as well as safety Carter Bowman.
“Their front-seven is unbelievable,” Kriesky said. “I’ve been highly impressed with them watching them on film. Their secondary is well-coached. They’ve always been in position to make plays in the films we have. It’s going to be tough for us.”