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Bulldogs seek to rain on McKenzie parade

The road to the playoffs starts in earnest for McKenzie Friday night in one of the most high-stakes homecoming games the school has had in recent years.

The Tigers and their opponent, the Kinston Bulldogs, enter Friday night under similar circumstances—both teams are vying for a shot at breaking even in region play (a win would put either team at 2-2).

The Tigers have already faced tougher-than-expected region battles twice this season in a double-overtime finish against Pleasant Home and the first loss to Florala since 2012.

McKenzie head football coach Tony Norris said that there is zero chance of the Tigers underestimating their homecoming opponent.

“Watching those kids, you see that they are well-coached, gritty and tough kids,” Norris said. “I expect a really tough region game this Friday night for homecoming.”

Kinston’s first-year head football coach Jon Cooper has made some notable changes with the Bulldogs’ program this season that have produced results.  In 2016, the team finished 1-9, while the Bulldogs currently sit at 3-2.

“He brought a lot of excitement to Kinston, and you can tell just by watching them on film that they’re well-prepared and they’re going to get after you,” Norris said.

“They’re going to be a 3-3 stack, and they’re going to be spread on offense a little bit, which is a little different from what they’ve done in the past.”

Though homecoming can just as often be a detriment, Norris and the Tigers are looking to channel a small but passionate fan base at home to propel them through a tough remaining slate of region games.

Three of the Tigers’ four remaining games are at home, and two of those home games are against some of the region’s top threats—Georgiana and Brantley.

“You always want to protect your home field,” Norris said. “Going into the back end of the season, we’ve got a chance to do that.  We’ve got three home games coming up here, so you want to make sure that you prepare. 

“But also, if you look at it right now as the region standings are, we’re tied for fifth with Kinston.  So I stress to the guys that it’s now or never as far as the playoffs go.  You’ve got to be able to finish strong here at the end of the year.”