The Enterprise Wildcats (3-1) will step out of region play this week to host Class 5A’s Carroll Eagles (2-2) in a renewal of a traditional rivalry this Friday, Sept. 25, in Wildcat Stadium.
Just 18 miles separates Enterprise and Ozark but a game that has been played more than 60 times has sat dormant since 2007. A hole in both Enterprise and Carroll’s schedules made the renewal of this traditional rivalry possible.
Enterprise’s originally scheduled opponent, Early County (Ga.), pulled out of the game last week after the school system decided they couldn’t travel that far. Carroll also lost its opponent after Pike County decided to play a schedule made up of only region opponents.
“It was another chance for our kids to go out and compete,” Carroll coach Patrick Plott said of accepting the game with Enterprise. “We had two open weeks if we weren’t able to fill this week and we had been looking. That opportunity came up and I felt like ‘why not,’ it’s an opponent for our kids to go out and compete and hopefully get better against.”
Enterprise coach Rick Darlington said he not only appreciated Plott’s willingness to accept the game but respected it, as well.
“I have total respect for Carroll for picking up the game. Their coach wants to build a program there and he’s already making progress,” Darlington said. “They lost their two games pretty convincingly and we were coming off a 52-point outburst against Davidson. So, for him to pick it up and say, ‘we’ll play,’ I like that.
“It makes a statement for what they’re trying to do with their program and I respect him a lot for that.”
After losing their first two games by a combined score of 110-14, the Eagles bounced back to pick up wins over Rehobeth and Headland in the past two weeks.
“I think we’re doing a good job of getting better each week and that’s our goal,” Plott said. “Every week we want to improve and I think we’ve done that.”
Enterprise and Carroll were once region foes in Class 5A and played annually from 1950 until 2007.
Darlington has been advocating for games against other Wiregrass opponents but with the only Class 7A teams located in Southeast Alabama being Enterprise and Dothan that has been easier said than done.
“We’re going to hopefully get a good crowd and if in the future they want us to come over there that’s fine, we would love to keep it going,” Darlington said. “It’s a whole lot better than having to go over to Florida or Georgia to get games.”
The Wildcats are coming off a frustrating loss to Central on the road last week but senior athlete Josh McCray had another big night for Enterprise, gaining nearly 400 all-purpose yards and scoring four touchdowns. So far this season, McCray has 831 all-purpose yards and 10 total touchdowns.
“We play him at so many different places it makes it hard to game plan to stop him,” Darlington said. “He may run it, he may catch it, he may even throw it and he’ll return a kick. You can’t just say, ‘Okay, Josh is playing receiver over here so we’ll double cover him.’ We’ll just move him over to a different spot.”
Darlington said that there would be a focus on fundamentals heading into this week’s matchup with Carroll.
“We want to play good defense – run and pass – and be physical running the ball and just play the way we’re supposed to play,” Darlington said. “I don’t want to see what we saw (last) Friday night. We don’t want to turn the ball over, we want to move the chains and score points and finish drives and play good fundamental football.”
Darlington said more times than not it’s those fundamentals that lead to winning rather than flashy schemes or plays.
“It’s never a magic secret with football. It always comes down to fundamentals,” Darlington said. “My favorite sign out there on the wall has a quote from (former Pittsburgh Steelers coach) Chuck Noll. ‘Champions are champions not because they do anything extraordinary but because they do the ordinary things better than anyone else.’
“It’s not glamour or cool or Twitter worthy to make an open field tackle or play a ball right or take care of the football but those are the things that win games.”