Editor's note: This story is featured in the Daily Citizen-News' weekly high school football Touchdown! section. Grab an issue in papers on Fridays during football season, or stop by our office for a copy.
No offense? No way.
As high school football is entering its final weeks of the regular season, teams in the area have been collectively on the ups in one certain category -- scoring more points than they did a year ago.
Heading into tonight's games, the seven schools in Whitfield and Murray counties combined are averaging 3.3 more points than they did at the end of last year's regular season, with a handful of blowout wins in the past few weeks, especially.
So, what's been the difference?
"It's hard to compare year to year because teams are different, and the teams you play are different," said North Murray coach Preston Poag. "There's definitely been more points to go around, but it's a combination of things including playmakers and veterans. Maybe the defenses aren't as good this year -- who knows?"
The Mountaineers (6-1, 5-0 in Region 6-3A) have had their fair share of changes, just like many teams' offensive dynamics this season, after starting quarterback Preston Poag Jr. graduated last spring. The decision to move multi-faceted Ladd McConkey to signal-caller has worked out for the team so far as it is in reach of the school's first football region championship if the Mountaineers win out. North Murray travels to Haralson County (6-0, 5-0 in Region 6-3A) tonight for a crucial matchup. The Mountaineers are averaging 33.7 points per game compared to last season's 27.7 points.
McConkey has certainly been a big help to putting numbers on the board for the Mountaineers, finishing last week's win over Coahulla Creek with all seven touchdowns for his team. His two rushing scores, two passing scores, two scores on punt returns and one on an interception return aren't the whole story, however, Poag said.
"We've just got a lot of speed, and we've got a bunch of different guys who can take it to the house," he said. "It's not just one guy."
Poag is right, with the exception of last week, North Murray has had multiple scores from running backs D'Ante Tidwell and Noah Lunsford. Its receivers have also been active, including Hayden Hulett and Landon Burrell, with the occasional touchdown reception from Chaisen Buckner.
Poag also credits the success to the number of snaps his players have seen over the years, with a large number of seniors on the team.
"People don't realize that experience is a big deal. I mean last year, we stumbled into the last four or five games with D'Ante being hurt and having Noah who had hardly played as a sophomore," Poag said. "All that stuff helps now because we've got a lot of playing time and in big games."
Experience is certainly a factor for Dalton's senior running back Jahmyr Gibbs, too, who has taken the brunt of the scoring for the Catamounts this season, only becoming stronger than his Daily Citizen-News Player of the Year performance from a year ago.
The Georgia Tech commit has 34 touchdowns this season and is nearing 2,000 yards on the ground, but there are lots of things that have contributed to his team's 17.5-point increased average from last season.
The Catamounts (6-1, 4-1 in Region 6-6A) head to Sprayberry (3-3, 2-2 in Region 6-6A) tonight averaging 48 points a game compared to last season's 30.5 points.
"That's the greatest thing about football," Dalton coach Matt Land said. "If there's a team sport, this is it. In baseball, you can have a guy hit four home runs, or in basketball you look at Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
"Football is not like that. You have to have the blocking for the quarterback or the running back to have the numbers."
The Catamounts do have a strong offensive line, anchored by Tennessee Tech commit Osbaldo Beltran, among others. They are also utilizing their third-string quarterback Parker Adams as starter Landon Allen and backup Ashton Blackwell are both injured.
Land said he's grateful that his entire team has been able to step up and make it work.
"The reality is that our offense is scoring every five or six plays, and Jahmyr is scoring every three or four times he touches the ball," Land said. "It's put us in a little bit of a conundrum because our first-string offense hadn't played a snap in the fourth quarter until the Harrison game.
"People who think we are running the score up aren't really looking at how many points are coming in the first, second and third quarters."
Gibbs scored just once in Dalton's only loss of the season against Harrison, though he still rushed for more than 200 yards. But still, Land said he surely isn't going to shock anyone when Gibbs gets the ball at any point in the game.
"It's just one of those things," Land said. "Everyone knows what we're doing, and most of the time we're in a one back set so it's not like we are trying to trick anyone. I don't know what else to do other than do what we do and let everyone else figure it out."
The area's other two teams that have increased their average points per game are Christian Heritage and Murray County.
For the Indians, a switch in the offseason to a triple-option threat has boosted their average from 10.8 points per game to 18.2 points.
Coach Chad Brewer said it's simply what needs to be happening for his team (4-3, 2-3 in Region 6-3A) who hosts Calhoun (5-1, 3-1 in Region 6-3A) tonight for Homecoming.
"We are huddling every snap," Brewer said. "And I know that doesn't seem like a big deal to everyone, but when you don't do that and you play really fast you can get behind easily with a bunch of three-and-outs. Huddling slows the game down for us and gives us a chance to punch it in on those long drives."
For Christian Heritage coach Jay Poag, the numbers are not about offense at all, though the translation to the scoreboard makes it seem that way.
The Lions (5-1, 2-1 in Region 6-A) defeated Trion last week, 52-6, but two of their scores came defensively. They have also allowed an area-low average this season of 9.1 points per game.
"Everything starts here with defense, and that's where we are going to put our best players," Poag said. "There was a time here when nobody wanted to play defense because they all wanted to be scoring touchdowns.
"If you look at our season now, there's a very good chance we could have been sitting with five shutouts. We're not just because of a couple of flukes or bad drives."
With their defensive mentality, however, Poag isn't surprised by their increase in numbers as the Lions are averaging 34 points a game compared to last season's 26.4 points.
Christian Heritage hosts Bowdon (6-0, 3-0 in Region 6-A) tonight with a long list of contributors on hand, including sophomore dual-threat quarterback Christian Thomas.
"Christian can do major damage to you with his legs," Poag said. "And, we've got an offensive line that's really grown up, a Division I receiver in Evan Lester and college-level running backs, (Gage Leonard and Ethan Smith) so we should be scoring a lot of points."
The Lions also have a top-ranked kicker in senior Joe Dixon, who hasn't been needed yet this season in a game-winning situation but did hit a 47-yard field goal in his team's win over Trion.
Maybe Dixon's field goals -- or the 50-yarder from Murray County's Elber Romero earlier this season -- is where the average increase of just more than three points has come from in the area. Or, maybe the defenses really aren't as good they have been in the past.
But for the Lions, the Indians and the rest of the team's in the area, all they have to do is continue to score one more point than their opponent.
TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES
Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (2-4, 2-2 in Region 6-3A) at Coahulla Creek (1-5, 0-4 in Region 6-3A), 7:30 p.m.
Coahulla Creek hosts LFO for its Homecoming game tonight.
The Colts fell to North Murray last week, 49-6. Tyler Locklear had the only score on a 57-yard touchdown run.
LFO was off last week after falling to Adairsville in a close game, 22-21.
Last meeting: LFO won in 2018, 41-18.
Northwest Whitfield (5-1, 2-0 in Region 6-4A) at Pickens (4-3, 2-1 in Region 6-4A), 7:30 p.m.
Northwest looks to keep its region record unblemished as it travels to Pickens tonight.
The Bruins defeated LaFayette last week, 37-20. Gavin Ellis led the win with three rushing touchdowns, while quarterback Owen Brooker found both Callen Nealey and Matt Redmond for one touchdown each through the air.
Pickens is coming off a close loss to Heritage, 21-20.
Last meeting: Pickens won in 2018, 55-13.