It is well known that you can’t appreciate the good things in life until you can compare them to the things that aren’t as good. Both Bartow and Fort Meade were rolling along in their 2013 football seasons until last week when they were removed from the undefeated ranks.
A loss will generally do nothing more than make you appreciate the wins that you are getting. Unfortunately, one of the two teams will have to experience the lesson against as Bartow travels to Fort Meade Friday night in a non-district contest. The host Miners are 3-1 while Bartow brings a 2-1 mark to town.
Both teams lost district games last week. Bartow Coach Jason Butler faced the Monday night preview event at Beef O’Brady’s, talking about a loss for the first time.
“It was not a great game,” he said when introducing the highlight video from the 30-10 loss to George Jenkins. “We will need to have a lot better showing this week. If you take out the two special teams touchdowns, though, it was only a six-point game. The defense made some good reads in the beginning. On the offense, we just couldn’t get anything going. We’re going to coach them up a little better this week.”
Butler cited Keyshawn Martin as a defensive standout from Friday night’s contest, marking the second straight week for Martin to grab the honor. On the offensive side of the ball, Butler pointed to center Cameron Harden as a bright spot on the offense.
In the George Jenkins game, Bartow saw two starters taken from the field with injuries. Wide receiver/kick returner Tre Jordan was injured during a return and taken to the hospital from the field, but Jordan has returned and is expected to play. Defensive end Brandon Carey left the game earlier and was still being evaluated. His status will be known later in the week.
The Miners will welcome the return to Frank S. Battle Stadium after making the long road trip to Tampa last week, returning to Fort Meade on the short side of a 39-13 game against Tampa Catholic. Like Bartow, Fort Meade is in a different district and both teams will regularly face squads that are greater in number than the Polk County schools can provide. Fort Meade was tied with Tampa Catholic 13-13 at the half, but the home team had few two-way players so most of the roster was well rested for the second half. The Tampa Catholic team scored quickly and carried the momentum through the rest of the game to secure the victory.
Despite the fact that Friday’s game doesn’t carry district implications, the traditional rivalry is sure to see a spirited effort on both sides of the ball and a large crowd is expected to turn out.
“Fort Meade is extremely fast,” said Butler. “We are going to see a different type of team than we have seen. There will be a lot of north and south action. Our defense will have to play in space. It all comes down to we have to do what we need to do to stop them.”
Fort Meade is a team of winning streaks. They have won 14 consecutive district titles, but for Friday’s game, there’s a different streak on the line. Fort Meade has won the last six matchups with Bartow and many of the games were one-sided. With the exception of 2009, when Bartow lost 23-18, the Jackets have not scored more than 8 points in any of the last six games. Bartow beat Fort Meade in 2006 (the game was played at George Jenkins during the Bartow stadium renovation) by a 17-14 count. Bartow last won at Frank S. Battle Stadium in a 21-20 squeaker in 2005.
When it is all said and done on the field Friday night, one team will be back to its winning ways and the other will make their preparations to rebound. Both teams face a bye week on Oct. 11 with a strong district schedule to follow to close out. No one is looking that far into the future. For both teams, for nearly the same reasons, the game that matters now is the one that will be played Friday night.