The Enterprise Wildcats (1-2, 0-1) will complete a three-game road stretch this Friday, Sept. 13, against the Smiths Station Panthers (2-1, 0-1) in a Class 7A, Region 2 matchup.
Both Enterprise and Smiths Station are coming off of 44-0 region losses as Enterprise fell to Auburn and Smiths Station lost to reigning Class 7A State Champion Central-Phenix City.
Before the Central game, however, Smiths Station started the season off with a 34-6 win over Russell County and a 16-6 win over Valley.
After totaling exactly 267 yards in both of their first two games, the Panthers could muster just 51 yards in 40 plays against Central last week.
The Wildcats also faced their own offensive woes a week ago as a group that had averaged more than 300 yards rushing in the first two games netted less than 200 yards of total offense against Auburn.
“They’re a lot like us,” Enterprise coach Rick Darlington said of Smiths Station. “They got beat by the same score as we did last week and they look like a physical team that plays really hard.
“They’re going to get up there and try to stop the run and it’s going to be a battle. Both of us are battling to try and get into the playoffs, so I think it’s going to be a pretty evenly matched game.”
Darlington said that he believes his offense is much better than it showed last week against Auburn.
“Offensively, I don’t think we’re as far off as it might seem after last week,” he emphasized. “It’s just about fundamentals. As cliché as it sounds, that’s what football is all about.
“It’s all about blocking, tackling and taking care of the football; the fundamentals. Our kids have to have confidence in what they’re doing it and do it at a high level consistently. That’s how you win football games.”
Darlington said that fundamentals would also be the key for the Wildcat defense, along with development.
“We just have to get better fundamentally and improve our tackling and playing the ball and hitting our (run) fits,” he said.
One thing that Darlington was proud to see against Auburn was that his team kept playing hard despite the score.
“I thought our kids played hard, it just didn’t go our way,” he said. “Any time we had a chance we shot ourselves in the foot. I think we can be a good football team but Enterprise can’t Enterprise if we’re going to be a good football team.”
Against Auburn, Enterprise converted just 4-of-18 third downs and 2-of-5 fourth downs, while Auburn converted 2-of-8 third downs and 2-of-3 fourth downs. Darlington refers to third and fourth downs as “crucial downs” and he believes those downs could decide the game against Smiths Station.
“I think comes down to those crucial downs,” Darlington emphasized. “If we have a third-and-three can we convert it? If we have a third-and-three on defense can we get them off the field?
“I want our kids to come out and play hard, play with discipline, play with enthusiasm and care about each other. I don’t want them to quit no matter what and keep fighting.”