However, a lot has change since then for both teams.
For openers, both have new head coaches. Davis, now in his second season at Spalding, has since taken over at Spalding, while Franklin Stephens — of Tucker folklore (state championships in 2008 and 2011 not to mention state semifinal appearances in 2007 and 2010) — makes his regular season debut Friday coaching the Lamar County Trojans.
Both head coaches have been friends for years, first as players at Georgia Southern and later when they worked for six years on the same coaching staff at Burke County between 1996 and 2001. Since then both have gone their separate ways, never once meeting on opposite sidelines until Friday night.
Their programs, however, are coming from opposite ends of the spectrum. Spalding had 10 players signed off last year’s 2-8 team, while Lamar County returns a great deal from its team that finished 12-1 last season under the direction of Jason Strickland.
Facing a team of that caliber in the opener has left Spalding ready to go as it forges its way into a new campaign.
“Everybody it is excited about the opportunity at the start of the season,” said Davis. “The kids have been working hard and the coaches have been working hard. We’re just hoping everything comes together and Friday night we can eliminate mistakes and… come out with a win.”
Spalding features a spread offense, under the direction of Ahmand Tinker, that is best described as multiple. Any one of three players — returning starter Powell Krepps, Trae Moran or Monquez Sullivan — can line up at quarterback. They have packages that suit the skill set of each, depending upon who’s in.
Expect the Jags to see a similar defense to the one they see in practice every day.
“They base out of a 3-5 like we do on defense, an attacking-style defense,” Davis said. “They’re about like us — they are more quick than they are big. They have a lot of experience and speed on the back end, so we are going to are going to have our hand full Friday night.”
On the other side of the ball, Spalding’s defense will lock horns with a Lamar County offense that bases out of the Wing-T.
“He bases out of the Delaware Wing-T — the true Delaware Wing-T, a lot like (2008 and 2009 state champion) Camden (County),” Davis noted of Stephens’s offense. “They’re going to try to be physical and try to pound the ball.”
Davis, however, expects Lamar’s offense to be more than just pound-and-ground.
“I think he will open it up and get in some shotgun sets and two-by-two sets because of the type of athletes he has at receiver and the quarterback that he has… we must contain these guys and not give up the big play.”
The same athleticism is also a threat on the special teams.
“We definitely have to break down and be in our planes on kickoff and punt returns and make sure we do a great job on punt protection because those are the really (big) game-changers,” said Davis. “They really have great skilled guys, so that’s always a concern for us — they can take it to the house any time they touch the football.”
Davis added, “What we’ve been focusing on and telling our kids is, ‘Don’t go for the big hit, and make sure you get the tackle in and then let defense handle the rest.”
It all falls in line with the staff’s main two messages heading into the opener.
“There are two things we are stressing,” said Davis. “Don’t give up the big play —
make them earn everything they get. And then, for us, I just want our kids to go out there and enjoy themselves.”
“Last year we played a lot of games where the kids were uptight and then when something bad happened they just went in the tank because they wanted to be successful so bad that it cost us a lot,” said Davis. “We’re just trying to keep our kids loose and let them go in there and have some fun. I want them to jump around around and enjoy themselves — nothing derogatory to the opposing team — but to to enjoy themselves.”