Purple Cats look to start season hot against rival Dale County

Published 9:50 am Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The Ariton Purple Cats will open the up 2023 season this Friday, Aug. 25, against their county rival in Class 4A Dale County Warriors.

Ariton gave Purple Cat fans a sneak peek at the 2023 team last week with a preseason jamboree against Brantley that saw the starting varsity play the first half, backups play the third quarter and junior varsity play the fourth quarter.

“It went well,” Ariton Coach Steven Kilcrease said of the jamboree. “We sort of came out flat, we didn’t have a lot of energy early on, but I felt like the third quarter group played really well with a lot of energy. We’re expecting those guys to help us this year and I thought some of those guys really shined.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Kilcrease has been impressed with what he’s seen from his team all through fall camp.

“We had a really good camp,” he said. “We have a lot of new faces out here, so we have a lot of inexperienced guys but they are working extremely hard and I love the attitude and work ethic that this group has. We already feel like there’s some guys that have shown some promise, especially in the jamboree. We have a long way to go, there’s no doubt.”

Dale County is coming off a 2-8 season last year, while Ariton won 10 games for the second consecutive year. Dale County and Ariton met for the first time in 1930 and played again in 1935 – both Dale County/Midland City wins – but did not play again in 2018. Since then, the two sides have met annually with Ariton winning the last three, including a 60-28 win last season. Dale County holds the all-time edge in the series 4-3 and Kilcrease says that a competitive game against a bigger school helps the Purple Cats get ready for region play.

“They have a new coach this year, Coach (Evan) Ballard, who was on the staff last year and they have some of the same (assistant coaches) on the staff,” Kilcrease said. “I know (Ballard) will bring an energy to that program and have some more kids out than they had before. I know they’ll be well coached and they always have really good, big athletes.

“They have some big kids at the skill positions, specifically. They’ve given us fits in the past. We’ve scheduled them the first game of the season the past six years, it was to prepare us for region play. That’s sort of the way we look at it. It’s good competition – against a bigger school – and is a challenge for us every year.”

Kilrease said that his Purple Cats are dealing with some illnesses and injury throughout the team heading into the season opener.

“We just have to get healthy, that’s our No. 1 right now,” he said. “We’re dealing with some (sickness) and bumps and bruises from Friday’s game, like everyone else. We’re also trying to battle this heat. Our guys are in really good shape, though.

“They’re going to compete and that’s all we can ask from them. We had a really energetic practice (on Monday) even with having some guys out. The good thing is we have a lot more kids out this year – we have around 50 players – and we’re excited about that and we’ll find out who can help us this week.”

Ariton and Dale County will play on Friday night at 7 p.m. at Warrior Stadium in Midland City.