Just one week after the Carrollton High School football team had what Sean Calhoun described as the worst practice in his three years in charge of the program leading up to a shaky homecoming performance two days later, the message was read loud and clear.
Needless to say, there's been a different energy among the Trojans this week leading up to Friday's 7:30 p.m. region contest at Cass, marking a stretch of three road games in four weeks for the fifth-ranked team in Class AAAAA.
"Practice has been a lot better and I anticipate that to carry over to Friday night. It's always good when you see kids respond, when you see kids who have leadership around them and when you have your captains taking ownership," Calhoun said. "We know how bad we played at times on special teams and on offense Friday. The defense was really good, in my opinion, other than one play."
The Trojans (4-1, 1-1 Region 7-AAAAA) escaped the 24-21 region nail-biter, where they rallied from an 11-point deficit entering the fourth quarter for the 24-21 victory over East Paulding (1-3, 1-1).
Now moving ahead to Cass (1-4, 0-3), one of the biggest foes thus far has been weather, as rain could be a theme all the way up through Friday night's final horn. Calhoun said having already practiced in bad weather and playing the Villa Rica game in a downpour at times should help, but he's reminded his players of what to expect should it happen again this Friday.
"Obviously, we focus on what we can control. But I always want them to be as prepared as they can, just as you would a game plan. I want them to be prepared as they can to know what's going to happen," Calhoun said. "Knowing that it's going to rain all week up in Cass and they have a grass field, so it's going to be real slick."
In preparing for the Colonels, who are coming off a 49-14 loss to No. 1 Rome, the Trojan defense understands it is up against an offense that wants to run the ball, move the chains and eat clock.
Therefore, the goal for the Carrollton defense is to put them in third-and-long situations and force them to get out of their comfort zone.
"When you have a team that's dominant with one facet of their game, whether it's mainly run or mainly pass, you've got to be able to win first down," Calhoun said. "You've got to be able to get the chains in your favor and you've got to be able to put them in some situations they don't like to be in. I think we are good at stopping the run. What they do plays into our strength. But that doesn't mean anything if you don't execute."
Facing back-to-back road trips to Cass and Woodland, Cartersville (4-1, 2-1) over the next two weeks before returning home to host Kell on Oct. 12, Calhoun said it's a matter of setting the tone and controlling the atmosphere just as you would at Grisham Stadium.
"If you want to be a really good team, you've got to find a way to win at other peoples' house. You can't only be good at home, you can't only be comfortable at home," Calhoun said. "No matter where we play, we want that to feel like home to us … We just talked to them about traveling maturity. We're going to leave a little bit earlier on Friday because it is a long trip. So are we going to be able to handle that maturely. When you're able to go on the road and knock off some of the distractions that you don't have when you play at home is a really good sign. We need to be able to do that this Friday and come away with a big region victory."
Friday night's contest will broadcast live on KISS 102.7 FM.