Eagles look to make it 2-0 at Marengo

Published 6:45 pm Tuesday, August 31, 2010

THOMASTON — With no disrespect to the Eagles’ annual battle against Linden, the Marengo Panthers have developed into A.L. Johnson’s chief rival over the last few years. A game that has always been an emotional one for the Eagles, the clash with Marengo is a region game again for at least the next two years.

“I know this week is a real big ball game as far as playoffs,” A.L. Johnson head coach Mose Jones said. “We haven’t played them this early since I’ve been (at A.L. Johnson).”

Week two may seem a little early to begin hanging playoff implications on a game, but the Eagles and Panthers compete in a region that contains Class 1A playoff staples Sweet Water and Linden. That does not even take into account an always formidable McIntosh program.

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And while the Eagles came up with a win over Marengo in week 10 of the 2009 season, Jones is not at all comfortable heading into Friday’s match-up. That could be in part because of the stark experience difference between the two teams.

“They’ve got pretty close to 25 boys above the ninth grade where I only have eight,” Jones said.

The Eagles’ young squad features only two seniors while Marcus Haywood is healing from an injury that will keep him sidelined for several weeks. But the fledgling squad showed itself game last week against Class 2A R.C. Hatch while picking up a 22-2 win in the season opener.

“I like the intensity they brought on the defensive side of the ball,” Jones said. “They really got after Hatch. Of course, (Hatch) made a lot of mistakes. But I’d like to think we caused some of those.”

That young defense will likely be tested fiercely Friday against an athletic Marengo team that is particularly adept at running the football.

“I expect to see a good, strong running game from Marengo,” Jones said. “We have to go in there and just play good, sound defense.”

ALJ is also inexperienced on offense, featuring underclassmen at a number of key positions. Leading that group is sophomore quarterback Mark Woods, a player that earned his coach’s confidence last week.

“My quarterback was able to throw the ball much better than I thought he was going to be able to throw it,” Jones said of Woods, who went 4-for-5 through the air in the game.

Despite its youth, Jones believes in his players. He even has to concede that their inexperience may suit them well in some cases.

“They are real young,” Jones said. “When you are young, you kind of look at things a little differently. I don’t know if there is a lot of pressure on them or not.”

A.L. Johnson will travel to Dixon’s Mills to take on Marengo Friday night at 7 p.m.