Neither the Meadowcreek nor Duluth football teams could be blamed if they came into tonight's non-region game against each other with a bit of a chip on their collective shoulders.
For the host Mustangs (0-1), the source of their vexation is obvious - their current 43-game losing streak dating back to 2003.
"Of course we want to break it," interim coach Terrone Owens said. "(The players) all see the paper, but it's not anything we discuss often because (the players) know it's there."
As much as the Mustangs are constantly reminded of the long streak, Duluth (0-1) also has plenty of reason to be a little extra motivated for tonight's contest.
After all, the Wildcats' struggles in recent years - just five wins over the last four-plus seasons - have made them seemingly a strong candidate for Meadowcreek to break its streak - a subject that has been discussed not so quietly around the county in the offseason.
However, first-year coach Gary McDonald doesn't want proving some pundits wrong as his team's main focus tonight as much as finding a way to improve from last week's season-opening loss to Shiloh.
"I don't blame (people who think Duluth is a candidate for Meadowcreek to break the streak)," McDonald said. "We're playing just five seniors right now, and I'm trying to decide (who gets called up from) J.V. this week.
"I hope we're not the ones to break the streak, but any team could be. We don't worry about that. We've got to worry about ourselves right now."
The Wildcats actually put up solid, if not spectacular, numbers last week, rolling up over 200 yards of total offense - including 68 rushing yards from Quinton Cobb and 80 total yards from Matthew Gagich - and held Shiloh to just 21 points.
However, they had a problem finding the end zone, compounded by a couple of breakdowns in the secondary in key situations.
Those are things McDonald knows his team must fix, especially against a Meadowcreek team that is capable of eating up yardage behind the arm of quarterback Sean Frezell (19-34-0, 165 yards, TD), Gwinnett's third-leading passer after Week 1.
"The mistakes we made (last week) - blown pass coverages or being in the wrong pass coverages - are going to happen when you're playing young people," McDonald said. "But we never did quit. Now, Meadowcreek had a fine team against us last year (in a 7-0 Duluth win), and their quarterback does some good things. But if they're playing a lot of kids both ways, we've got to keep them on the field as long as possible. We've just got to get better and let the chips fall where they may."
Indeed, depth is a concern for Owens and Meadowcreek, though not as much as simply cleaning up some things from last week's 40-14 loss at Luella.
And Owens wants his Mustangs' minds on making those improvements and less on breaking the streak.
"This game is not different from any other," Owens said. "We've worked hard Monday through Thursday, and we'll show up (tonight) and hope it pays off. And since we're at home this week, the way we look at it, what better way to end the streak than here at the 'Creek?"
SideBar: DULUTH AT MEADOWCREEK
Duluth Wildcats (7-AAAAA)
· Coach: Gary McDonald
· Record: 0-1
· Last week: Lost to Shiloh 21-6
Meadowcreek Mustangs (8-AAAAA)
· Coach: Terrone Owens
· Record: 0-1
· Last week: Lost Luella 40-14
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Duluth won 7-0 last year
Directions to Meadowcreek High School: From I-85, go east on Beaver Ruin Road to Steve Reynolds Boulevard and turn right. School is on the right.
2007: Duluth 7, Meadowcreek 0
2006: Duluth 13, Meadowcreek 6, OT
2003: Duluth 38, Meadowcreek 14
2002: Duluth 45, Meadowcreek 6
2001: Duluth 45, Meadowcreek 29
2000: Meadowcreek 22, Duluth 12
1999: Duluth 18, Meadowcreek 13
1998: Duluth 31, Meadowcreek 27
1997: Meadowcreek 19, Duluth 6
1996: Meadowcreek 9, Duluth 7
1993: Duluth 7, Meadowcreek 3
1992: Meadowcreek 13, Duluth 7
1991: Meadowcreek 30, Duluth 15
1990: Meadowcreek 21, Duluth 14
1989: Meadowcreek 25, Duluth 7
1988: Duluth 19, Meadowcreek 0