That began last week, when the Eagles beat undefeated Wheeler 31-27 in their Region 5AAAAAA opener.
“We improved on a lot of things last week, mainly being fundamentally sound and being disciplined with regards to penalties,” first-year Etowah coach Dave Svehla said. “We were happy to get the win, but at the same time, we still have plenty of things to work on.
“We’re going to need to be better than we were last week (when we play) against Roswell. They have some really good football players.”
Roswell (1-3, 0-1) lost 45-31 to its archrival, Milton, last week and enters Friday’s game on a three-game losing streak. However, those three losses all came against stiff competition — Lambert, Johns Creek and Milton — that have a combined record of 11-1.
Svehla said the key to beating Roswell will be finding a way to contain the Hornets’ talented running back, Andrew Kwateng.
“He is fast, elusive, powerful,” Svehla said, “and he isn’t that big, but he is strong. That kid is legit.”
Kwateng, a senior that missed most of last season with a leg injury, has 869 yards rushing and eight touchdowns through four games this season — including a 311-yard, three-touchdown performance against Milton last week.
Roswell features Kwateng in a similar offense to what the Etowah defense sees every day in practice — a pro-style look that emphasizes the run and mixes in play-action passes.
“The thing that concerns me is that you have to load up to stop him,” Svehla said of Kwateng. “After a while, they’ll lull you to sleep and hit you with play-action, and they have a quarterback (Ryan Monty) that can sling it around, too.”
Conversely, Etowah (2-2, 1-0) will take the field with John Oliver under center for the second straight game after losing Reeves Johnson to a season-ending injury for the second straight season.
Oliver, a junior who started eight games at quarterback in 2011, offers a more athletic threat for the Eagles’ backfield, and he performed well in his first start of the season last week — rushing for 78 yards, two touchdowns and throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Ben Rowell with less than a minute to play.
“He hadn’t taken a snap at quarterback in five weeks, so it was a little bit of a trial by fire for John, but he transitioned well,” Svehla said. “It was a big win for him going forward.”