CONYERS - Last year, the numbers were staggering when Salem and Madison County clashed in the Region 8-AAAA playoffs.
Ninety-one total points, 970 yards of total offense, 44 first downs - and all that separated the two squads was Jack Orr's 40-yard field goal in the final minute that lifted the Red Raiders to a 47-44 victory.
This year, the Seminoles (9-1) and the Red Raiders (5-4) meet again at 7:30 p.m. today in the Region 8-AAAA playoffs, this time at Reid Memorial Stadium. The winner earns a spot in the Class AAAA state playoffs, which start next week.
Salem coach Chad Estes is expecting another close one tonight.
"I am expecting a close, hard-fought contest in which both teams want to move on to the state playoffs," he said. "I don't think we have to worry about our kids overlooking Madison County after last year's game."
Madison County coach Randell Owens, who coached at Heritage before heading to Danielsville, is not sure what to expect.
"Who knows? I wasn't expecting a shootout last year. Last year, I had no idea that our offense would be nearly that effective against them," he said. "I also expected our defense to be much better last year in containing their offense and eliminating explosion plays. I was obviously wrong on both counts.
"This year, I know that they'll be coming after us hard. They'll be a team on a mission with a lot on the line."
The two catalysts for last year's explosion on the scoreboard were quarterbacks Terrance Davis and Jarred Owens. Davis had a hand in four touchdowns and rushed for 109 yards, while Owens passed for 315 yards and four scores.
Davis is the only one back for tonight's game, although according to Estes, his status is questionable after tweaking his hamstring in Salem's 28-10 victory over Cedar Shoals last Friday that clinched the Region 8-AAAA South title.
But even without Owens, Estes is well aware of Madison County's capabilities on offense.
"They have not changed on offense. They spread you out and make you defend the entire field," Estes said. "We have to swarm to the ball and play assignment football on defense."
On the other hand, Salem's offense has a little different feel this year, especially since the midpoint of the season. The Seminoles have featured a strong running game and a passing game that's producing big plays.
"Our kids understand that we are a better football team when we can run and pass the football," Estes said. "Ball control, turnovers and no penalties will be the keys on offense (against Madison)."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: Madison Co. at Salem
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Reid Memorial Stadium
The series: Salem leads 2-1
Last week: Salem beat Cedar Shoals 28-10, Madison County beat Winder-Barrow 27-6