CONYERS - The off week seems to come at a perfect time for Salem.
Coming off a tough, 21-16 loss to Madison County that ended hopes of starting the season 4-1, the Seminoles were able to use last Friday, and the idle time that followed, getting back to the simple things.
"I think as most teams do we tried to go back and work on the basics," Salem coach Chad Estes said of the off week. "The fundamentals, blocking and tackling; sometimes we try to do a lot of things but this game comes down to who can block (and) tackle. We were able to go ahead and focus a little bit on this week's opponent. I thought it worked out nice for us."
That opponent, Clarke Central, is dangerous not just for the playmakers it has on offense, but for the way it went down last weekend.
After tying its home game with Rockdale with four seconds left on a 48-yard touchdown hook up and two-point conversion between Martay Mattox and Dimitri Holmes, the Gladiators watched Rockdale score the winning touchdown in overtime of a 26-23 loss.
Mattox and Holmes are two of the most impressive weapons on a team capable of piling up big numbers. It's something Estes, who watched his team get burned multiple times by Holmes in a loss last season, knows all too well.
"The kid they had last year (at quarterback) graduated (and) I was hoping there'd be a drop off," Estes said. "(Mattox is) every bit as tough as the kid they had last year, he's just a little bit bigger version. We're very aware of Dimitri, he's an excellent receiver. He had a career day last year against us; I think he caught 15 balls. When they throw the ball, he's the one we're going to have to have a plan to deal with."
But for Salem's defense, which has allowed 14 or less points in three of five games, it's not all about stopping Mattox and Holmes. Backs Davonta Appleby and Quenshaun Watson are speedy backs with the capability of making big plays and Mattox has others besides Holmes to throw to in an offense that is constantly showing different looks.
"They will run as many formations as any team we'll play, they're very versatile, they're going to spread you out all over the field," said Estes. "They have tremendous athletes, it's going to be a great challenge for us."
With both teams coming off a loss, and as competitive as Region 8-AAAA has been in 2009, Friday's game at Seminole Stadium has the feel of a must-win.
"We need a win as bad they need a win," Estes said. "I think we're all hungry for a win; in this region every week you're facing the possibility (of a loss)."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at kurt.aschermann@rockdalecitizen.
SideBar: At a glance
· Who: Clarke Central Gladiators (4-2) at Salem Seminoles (3-2)
· Where: Salem Stadium
· When: 7:30 p.m., Friday
· Last week: Salem lost to Madison County, 21-16; Clarke Central lost in overtime to Rockdale, 26-23
· Series: Clarke Central 3-2
· Last year: Clarke Central defeated Salem, 22-21