Edgewood Academy returns home to continue region play

Cliff Williams / The Outlook Edgewood’s Alex Johnson passes against Northside.

At this time one year ago, Edgewood was celebrating its first victory in AISA play in more than two years. Now, the Wildcats will face off against the same opponent which gave them that win as they hit the road to take on Northside Methodist on Friday night.

The defeat sent the Knights to their 13th consecutive defeat and it looked like they were in for a long season after dropping their first five games. However, they showed plenty of progress in the back half of the year and now Edgewood has to prepare for a team it expects to be very improved.

“The good thing is we beat them in a very climactic way so we really don’t have to tell them they aren’t the same team,” Edgewood coach Darryl Free said. “We only beat them by one point so if anything, we want to press these guys that we have a statement to make. We really challenged them to come out a lot more polished in game one than we did last year.”

The two teams met over the summer during a 7-on-7 camp at Crenshaw but both teams expect to see some new additions on each side of the ball. Without any recent film to scout, Free said the team’s focus is more on itself than game planning for anyone else.

“All you can really do is watch film from late last season,” Free said. “We wanted to see how they evolved from playing us in Week 1 to what they did Week 10. We expect a few wrinkles but that’s what makes the first game really exciting because no one knows much about the other team. It makes the chess match more fun.”

This will be the first chance the Wildcats have to make a statement to the rest of AISA last year’s success was not a fluke. Free said he’s fine with the players taking that mentality because it shows up in practice and in the weight room but they can still keep that emotion in check on the sidelines.

“I think that goes into our preparation,” Free said. “They’ll put some pride into wanting to be more mid-season ready than we were last season. We’ll make some mistakes but we’ll be focused on getting as ready as we can possibly be to eliminate some of those mental errors we made last season.”

While the offense is going to be led by quarterback Alex Johnson, all eyes will be on the person standing next to him in the backfield. Edgewood returns a majority of its starting offensive line so there should still be plenty of opportunities to have a successful rushing attack.

The coaching staff has not decided for the official starters but Trey Killingsworth, Mitchell Boyd and Blaine Guthrie are among the players who should get carries against Northside.

“It’s going to be by committee in Game 1,” Free said. “We’re really excited to see it and we’re really confident in each one of the guys. We’re hoping somebody will step up and become that guy for us so we can use the other guys in different spots. We’ll give each one equal opportunity to emerge as a leader at both the running back and H-back position.”

Edgewood plays three AISA-AAA schools to start off its season before jumping into region play next month. Free felt like last season’s difficult schedule prepared his well for the postseason and he wants to see the same effect on the players this year.

“We set it up hard for this year on purpose,” Free said. “We wanted to be in the best position possible at the end of the year to make a run and achieve some of our goals. What better way to find out where you are than to play the biggest classification AISA offers to start the year.”

PREDICTION: Edgewood 35, Northside 14

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.