Beat Lambert, beat Centennial, beat Pope.
Check, check, check.
From here on out, though, the list gets a little more challenging.
That includes winning the Region 5AAAAAA title and making the state playoffs after missing out last season.
A win tonight at Wheeler (2-1) would go a long way toward both of those goals, but the Wildcats won’t make it easy.
“They are a very athletic team — very scary individual players,” Etowah coach Dave Svehla said. “We are going to have our work cut out for us, but I think our kids are excited for the challenge.”
Wheeler has goals of its own. Just like the Eagles, the Wildcats are aiming for a region title and playoff berth.
As much as Svehla says the Wildcats pose a challenge, Wheeler coach Mike Collins looks at the Eagles the same way.
“They are a very well-coached football team,” he said. “We will find out (tonight) how practice really went this week.”
Both teams have veteran quarterbacks going to work for them. Elijah Staley, a 6-foot-7 passer who has committed to play both football and basketball at Mississippi State, is a third-year starter at Wheeler, as is John Oliver at Etowah.
Svehla said having veteran seniors like Oliver, Preston White, James Arnold and Ben Rowell has played a large role in his team’s success thus far.
“It factors in quite a bit,” Svehla said. “It’s a factor on the game field on Friday night, and it factors into leadership in the locker room and weight room. Just the relationship that they have and the maturity level. They set a good example for our younger players. That’s been an important aspect for our team so far this fall.”
Also important is that it’s Svehla’s second year with the players. Last fall, he was a newcomer from Illinois hired to replace longtime Etowah coach Bill Stewart.
“That is huge,” Svehla said. “They know what we expect from our players. There are a lot of things that don’t have to be said anymore. We can get past some of the managerial parts and get down to making our kids better each practice. In terms of understanding each other, there is definitely an advantage of being in our second year.”
Wheeler is in its fourth season with its coach, and it’s improved each year. The Wildcats finished 1-9 in Collins’ 2010 debut — after two winless seasons — before improving to 6-5 last year and making the state playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Right now, Wheeler is trying to rebound from its first loss of the year, a 37-28 loss to Langston Hughes.
“Sometimes, you learn more from a loss than you do from a win,” Collins said. “We have learned what we did wrong and, hopefully, we can get those things corrected and play a little better ballgame (tonight). Now, everybody is 0-0, and every win counts headed toward (the state playoffs). We don’t approach it any differently, but now our goals that we want to achieve are on the line every Friday night from here on out.
“We do understand that this is a big first-round tournament game, and I’m hoping we can go out and play a good, solid ballgame. We know Etowah will be a tall task.”