With the Knights’ playoff hopes resting on their next five games, River Ridge coach Robert Braucht feels they Knights can now fully focus on the portion of their schedule that matters the most.
“In reality, our whole season truly starts Friday, this week, against Cedartown,” Braucht said. “Right now, every team in the region controls its own destiny. For us to keep controlling ours, we have to do our best for the next five games.”
The importance of starting the region schedule with a win, after struggling early in the season, is not lost on Braucht.
“There is no doubt. This is our biggest game so far this season,” he said of Cedartown.
River Ridge will have a tough task ahead of it, as Cedartown (4-1) has scored an average of 35 points a game.
“Their record speaks for itself,” Braucht said. “They are definitely not a team that you can afford to overlook. On paper, they probably have the better squad.”
Braucht expects the Bulldogs to line up in an option-based offense — similar to Georgia Tech’s — with the state’s leading rusher, Nick Chubb, leading the way.
Chubb, who has rushed for 1,416 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, had 366 yards and seven touchdowns on 36 carries in a 47-27 win over Southwest Whitfield last week.
It was the third time this season that Chubb had rushed for more than 360 yards.
“Some say he is the best running back in the state,” Braucht said of Chubb. “We’ll just try and keep him corralled — keep him in front of us.”
Fortunately for River Ridge, its leading rusher from last season, E.J. Ellis is available to play after being sidelined for the first four games with a knee injury.
Ellis played for the first time this season last week. He rushed for 122 yards on 26 carries in a 35-21 loss to Northwest Whitfield.
“He is back at about 75 percent. He just needs to get into football shape,” Braucht said. “Hopefully, he gets caught up with the rest of the team.”
For Braucht, the key to success against Cedartown is for his players to prevent the big plays that did the Knights in last week.
“Last week, big plays were the difference in the ball game,” Braucht said. “(Northwest Whitfield) had three touchdowns that came from deep passes, and it won them the game. We can’t keep giving up big scores like that on defense.”
To prevent the defensive breakdowns that have been plaguing them all season, Braucht feels his players must first learn to never take a play off.
“It is important for our staff to get our kids to understand their roles and how important every play is,” he said. “Our kids don’t quite understand that every detail does matter, and we need to teach them that.”