Coming off of a bye week, the Commerce Tigers (5-4, 1-4) are well rested and prepared to take on their final opponent of the regular season, the Pinecrest Academy Paladins (4-4, 3-3).
Friday night will be the first meeting of these two option based offenses in what is sure to be an action-packed contest.
Pinecrest upset George Walton Academy back in week seven, but has dropped two straight games to Athens Christian and Prince Avenue Christian. Meanwhile, the Tigers recently broke their four-game losing streak when they defeated Hebron Christian on Oct. 26.
Commerce head coach Marvin Justice noted the Paladins’ “never-say-die” mentality.
“They’re a good football team,” he said. “The most impressive thing about them is, whether they are ahead or behind, they play hard for 48 minutes. They don’t give up or quit. They were behind Prince Avenue 50-14 and they still scored three more touchdowns. A lot of teams – when they get that far behind – you start showing signs of throwing the towel in, but they don’t do that.”
While Commerce runs the triple option, Pinecrest runs a flex bone option offense, similar to that of Georgia Tech’s. The Tigers will need to control the ball and the clock to try and keep the Paladins’ high-powered offense off the field as much as possible.
“The guy on offense you have to stop is their quarterback, number four,” said Justice. “He runs the option, makes good decisions, runs the ball well and throws the ball well. He has an arm on him.”
Justice expects the Paladins to show a typical 4-3 (split-50) defense, similar to many of the Tigers’ previous opponents this season.
The Tigers have had plenty of time to recover from any minor injuries or fatigue incurred throughout their nine straight games. Coaches decided to give the players a long weekend, canceling practice on Thursday and Friday.
When asked whether or not the team is well rested, Justice replied, “I hope they are.
I polled them and quizzed them if they felt rested and they said they were. They seemed pretty chipper at practice yesterday (Monday), but it’s one of those things that you won’t really know until you are in the game on Friday. We should be rested, I’ll tell you that much.”
While the playoff picture is still unclear, there are plenty of implications surrounding Friday night’s contest with the Paladins. A win would essentially guarantee the Tigers a spot in the GHSA public Class-A playoffs; however, a loss doesn’t necessarily eliminate them.
Justice hopes that a Tiger win and some losses by other teams ahead of Commerce might move the Tigers into the top-eight in the power rankings, locking in home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
Senior night ceremonies begin on Friday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Ray Lamb Stadium. Kickoff is at 8:00 p.m.