Sylacauga head coach Adam Griffith understands every team he fields is different from the year before, regardless of how many players he has returning.
That rings especially true for Griffith and the Aggies this year, as his team is returning only 14 seniors on a roster that has averaged between 18 and 23 in past seasons. And with the Chilton County Tigers coming to Sylacauga for the home opener, Griffith expects his team might experience a few growing pains.
"Of course, there's some worries," Griffith said. "Everybody's starting a little bit earlier; it's normally a jamboree week. You worry, ‘are they in good enough shape to play that early?’ We'll see how this team shapes up."
The Aggies bring in new starters at numerous key positions along the offense. Jordan Daniel will be taking over under center, with Alex Thomas taking over the reins at running back. Most of the Aggies' offensive line is new, as well.
Sylacauga has a little more experience on the defensive side of the ball. Griffith said he expects a lot from linebacker Steven Strickland, who will be in charge of putting the Aggie defense in line against the Tigers.
Not to say Griffith feels his team is unprepared: far from it. Despite the relative inexperience, Griffith said the players on his team have turned in astounding progress over the course of spring training, summer workouts and the preseason.
"I thought we were light years ahead on the last day from the first day," Griffith said. "The summer attendance was the best since I've been here. The players have done the work to put themselves in a good position to be successful."
It doesn't hurt that Sylacauga doesn't have to visit Chilton County either, a place Griffith described as "very hard to go in and win." Chilton County, which last year was classified as a 5A school, has made the jump to 6A in 2014. Griffith said he doesn't know much about the team the Tigers are fielding, and is focusing on what his team can do to pull out a victory.
The key, Griffith said, will be to minimize mistakes, take control of the turnover margin and dominate in special teams play. Even with a solid game plan, Griffith knows his young team will not play perfectly to start the season.
"They're going to happen. You're going to have some mistakes," Griffith said. "You hope they don't come at critical times. You're just ready to see how well they play under the lights. You just never know until the game."
Contact Zac Al-Khateeb at firstname.lastname@example.org.