Highlanders seek focus against Carter

Oct. 18, 2013 @ 02:58 PM

Football coaches will tell you, week after week, their teams play the way they practice.

But even some of the best practices of the year from Gatlinburg-Pittman in the last couple weeks hasn’t translated onto the field.

“That’s happened a few times in my career but not real often,” said Highlanders coach Benny Hammonds. “We’ve had another good week of practice. I’m a firm believer that you play how you practice. We’ve got to carry that over to the game field.”

That’s critical tonight when the field belongs to unbeaten Carter. The 7:30 p.m. matchup in Strawberry Plains has postseason implications, with Hammonds saying a loss could likely send his team on the road in the playoffs.

G-P enters with one defeat — to class 4A No. 1 Fulton. While the Highlanders (7-1, 2-1 District 3-AA) have locked up wins by 17 and 29 points the last two weeks against Austin-East and Grainger, execution has not been smooth. Neither of those teams have a record like the Hornets (7-0, 3-0), so G-P can’t afford the same mistakes this time.

“You need to have  a precision-type game this time of year,” Hammonds said. “Hopefully we have as few penalties as possible. Defense has to be aggressive. You have to be playing good ball this time of year.”

While the Highlanders haven’t played as well as they’d like, Jeremy Odom has provided the spark in recent weeks. He had a couple touchdowns and was all around the ball two weeks ago. Last week against Grainger, Odom had 95 yards and a rushing touchdown on three carries to go with a 73-yard receiving score.

Odom said he thought team wasn’t as focused as it should’ve been with homecoming last Friday. The Highlanders weren’t the perfect machine working in unison they need to be. But Odom has also noticed something about the way G-P plays.

“Against bigger competition, we play better,” Odom said. “It’s Carter and they’re undefeated. That makes us want to win more than anything.”

That will only happen if the Highlanders play well.

Just like last week, Hammonds said his team looks good in practice. But how will G-P perform when the lights come on tonight?

 “We’ve got to be playing better than we have the last two weeks,” said running back Michael Muszik. “I think it’s just we’ve gotten off to a slow start. We’ve got to come into the game more pumped up and ready to score points.”