Ariton excited for tough opener

Published 7:22 pm Wednesday, August 22, 2018

It will be a battle of top-10 teams on Friday night as Dale County visits Ariton to kick off the 2018 season.

“We had a good week of practice and we are excited to see ourselves play someone else and see what we need to work on to get better,” said head coach Steven Kilcrease.

The Dale County Warriors enter the season ranked 10th in Class 4A, while Ariton comes ranked 4th according to the Alabama Sports Writers Association Preseason Poll.

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“To have the opportunity to play a team such as Dale County, a ranked 4A school, does nothing but help us,” Kilcrease said. “We know it’s a quality opponent and we know that we have to play well to have a chance. That is what we want. When we looked at the schedule, we wanted to play some good teams out of region to test our players. I think it will help us prepare for the next week.”

Dale County is just the beginning of a tough non-region schedule for Ariton. The Purple Cats travel to play Goshen in week two.

“I’m sure there are other 2A schools that have tough schedules,” Kilcrease said. “We are out of the gate with our two non-region games against Dale County and Goshen. I think that prepares us for our region play.”

The Purple Cats are coming off one their best seasons in program history. They finished the 2017 season with just one loss and made it to the second round of the playoffs before being ousted by Leroy.

This season, the Purple Cats welcome back 13 starters off last year’s team including eight on the offensive side of the ball. The school and the community are excited to see what the 2018 Purple Cats can do for an encore.

“They’re excited for football, there is no question,” Kilcrease said. “We had a really good year last year. We’re hoping to build on that. There is an excitement.”

The Warriors ride into the season opener coming off a 7-3 regular season and a trip to the postseason. They fell in the opening round to Bibb County 41-12.

The Purple Cats have won their last three openers, including coach Kilcrease’s first two.

“I think it’s huge for the confidence of your players,” Kilcrease said. “Last year we were coming off an OK year. My first year we were 6-5, but we weren’t there. We are still not, but I think our kids know of the potential.”

Kickoff between the Warriors and Purple Cats is slated for 7 p.m.

“We have to protect the football,” Kilcrease said. “We have done a pretty good job of that during fall camp. When we were good last year, we protected the ball on offense and we turned the ball over on defense. To me, that’s the key.