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McKenzie to face Lions on road

Last Friday’s double-overtime, one-point win over the visiting Pleasant Home Eagles was almost too close for comfort for McKenzie head football coach Tony Norris.

But more importantly, the hard-fought win might be just the kick in the pants the McKenzie Tigers needed.

Norris said that the tough non-region competition that comprised the first two weeks of the season paved the way for the tough region battles to come.

“The first couple of games of the season prepared us for something like Friday night.  The kids kept playing and kept fighting after we went down late in the fourth quarter, and I felt like they just kept working hard,” Norris said. “Eventually, it led to us being able to tie it up and go to overtime.

“With that being said, we had a couple of breakdowns in the special teams department, and that’s really what allowed Pleasant Home to stay in the ballgame with us.”

Another region challenge awaits the Tigers in the form of the Houston County Lions, albeit a challenge of a different sort.

The Tigers and the Lions clashed in a difficult battle at home in 2016 with a margin of victory nearly as narrow as last Friday’s win over Pleasant Home.

Norris expects an even tougher fight this season, as the Lions remain largely intact from an already formidable 2016 squad.

“They’re very athletic, and they’re very good at what they do,” he added. “They are an impressive bunch.  We’ve got to go to work and figure out a way to have a chance in the fourth quarter. 

“They’re a fast group of kids, and most of them from last year are returning.  That’s going to be quite a challenge in itself.”

The numbers don’t lie.  The 2017 Houston County Lions haven’t been scored on since the opening week of the regular season. 

In the past two weeks, they’ve held Zion Chapel and Red Level scoreless while scoring a combined 98 points themselves.

“I feel like they are very good at the big plays,” Norris said. “They were very successful in that department against Red Level last week.  They do fly around to the football, so I feel like that’s part of what allows them to be successful.

“To have a chance, we’re going to have to tackle well, fly around to the football and limit their big plays.”

The matchup with Houston County also marks the first of a three-game stretch on the road, which sits in stark contrast to the three consecutive home games the Tigers enjoyed last season.

Though Norris said that if the Tigers’ ultimate goal is a state title, playing in tough situations on the road is par for the course.

“It’ll be something that I will look to see how our kids handle it, especially with Houston County, who’s a little bit further away than most of our region games, being up first,” he said.

“We may have to leave a little bit early and do some different things like that. But you’ve got to be able to play whether that’s at home or away.”

The Tigers travel to face the Lions Friday.  Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.