And the Tigers continue that grueling stretch with a trip to the top of the mountain when they travel to Franklin for a battle with seventh-ranked and unbeaten Heard County in a 7:30 p.m. clash at Staples Stadium on Friday night.
Temple (1-6, 1-4 Region 5-AA) had road games at Manchester and Bowdon prior to the open week and now return to take on the first-place Braves (7-0, 5-0) — also on the road — before finally returning home to host Bremen next week.
Needless to say, Tiger coach Seth Rogers wasn’t dealt the best hand by the scheduling gods, but it is what it is and he’ll head to Heard with an extra week of preparation, at least.
“Open week is kind of a blessing and a curse. You get healthy, but you’re really not working toward anything on that Friday. I thought we had some good days and some competitive days. We really worked on us. Again, just getting after them and coaching them up. Our kids are in good spirits. We played hard against Bowdon [on Oct. 12], and we’ve just got to work hard and eliminate our mistakes,” Rogers said.
Temple will have faced the two highest-scoring offenses in 5-AA — Heard at 43 points per contest and Bowdon at 38 — in back-to-back games and the Tiger coach knows the Braves are loaded at the skill position with basically everyone back from last year’s team that knocked off his squad in a 33-21 contest at Rogers Stadium.
“I hesitate to call them the same team because they’ve grown up and got some great players. Their running back [Duranta Dunson] and quarterback [Jonathan Hunt] are great players. They’re fundamentally-sound on both sides of the ball. It starts with their offensive and defensive line. Coach [Tim] Barron and his staff down there have done a great job,” Rogers said. “They’ve got some weapons offensively and they’re where they’re supposed to be defensively. So they’re a tough opponent. No doubt.”
That said, Barron doesn’t feel that the Temple team he saw earlier in the year is the same one that will hit the field on Friday.
“They’re much better than they were. They’re playing hard. They’re executing. So it’s not the game people would have thought it would have been six weeks ago,” Barron said. “They’ve done a lot to get a whole lot better and they’re going to present some challenges for us.”
And with an extra week of preparation, the Brave coach expects a sound Tiger ball club to bring everything it has this week.
“Anytime you’ve got an open week to prepare for somebody, it’s always beneficial for you. So I’m sure that they’ve had plenty of opportunities to evaluate us on film and scheme for us. They’re going to work very hard to come into the game to win,” Barron said.
When it comes to trying to contain Heard County’s explosive offensive attack, Rogers said it’s going to take an entire unit giving all it’s got to the whistle on every play to slow the Braves down.
“I mean, we’re going to have to put 11 hats to the ball. You watch them on film and I know coach [Rich] Fendley down there very well — he does their strength program — and those guys, you’re not going to arm-tackle them. For us, we’re going to have to get multiple hats to the ball,” Rogers said. “They’ve got some strong kids and some speed and they can hurt you in a number of ways — whether it’s in the passing game or the Dunson kid. And, obviously, they’ve got more than just him. So they definitely present some challenges for us defensively.”