After breaking a 19-game losing streak with last week's 25-7 win over Meadowcreek, Duluth enters its Region 7-AAAAA opener tonight against North Forsyth with a much different perspective.
"(The win) was better than anything I could do for them," coach Gary McDonald said of his Wildcats (1-1). "They're practicing better. They're running around better. But the thing is, when they came off the field last week, they were happy, of course. But they said, 'You know, we didn't really play well.' And that's good, too. They expect more (of themselves)."
The Wildcats may have higher expectations of themselves, but they will still have their work cut out for them going for their first region win since beating Forsyth Central on Sept. 29, 2006.
They will have to do it against a North Forsyth (2-0) team that has outscored its opponents 65-0 in its first two games.
The Raiders' running game rolled up 378 yards in last week's 28-0 win over Johnson-Gainesville, and have two offensive backs - quarterback Joey Vicary (325 yards) and running back Steven Hester (249 yards) - averaging over 100 yards per game.
"They're pretty salty," McDonald said of North Forsyth's running game. "They've got some good size and strength. They're an option team. They're a good football team."
If Duluth is going to slow down that attack, it will need another effort like the one Justin Dixon made in last week's win over Meadowcreek.
The junior linebacker - who leads the county with 29 tackles so far this season - made 10 tackles, recovered a fumble and blocked a punt and returned it for a score, and provided plenty of energy for the Wildcats.
The North Forsyth defense also features playmakers, such as linebacker Brett Garner, who had two interceptions in the Raiders' opening week 37-0 win over West Forsyth, and defensive back Tyler Riddle.
That poses a challenge for what has been a fairly balanced Duluth offense, led by quarterback Alex Fragoso (13-22-1, 258 yards, TD; 12 carries for 65 yards, TD) and tight end Hamilton Garner (6-107, TD).
"We feel like we've got to spread them out if we're going to be able to run the football," McDonald said. "They've got some pretty good athletes and good quickness. So it's going to be tough for us to just run it right at them."
SideBar: NORTH FORSYTH AT DULUTH
North Forsyth Raiders (7-AAAAA)
Coach: Jared Zito
Last week: Beat Johnson-Gainesville 28-0
Duluth Wildcats (7-AAAAA)
Coach: Gary McDonald
Last week: Beat Meadowcreek 25-7
When: Today. 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: North Forsyth won 24-8 last year
Directions to Duluth High School: From I-85, take Ga. Highway 120 east to Buford Highway and turn right. Take a left at the next light onto Brock Road and school is on the left.
2008: North Forsyth 24, Duluth 8
2007: North Forsyth 17, Duluth 14
2006: North Forsyth 31, Duluth 21