Lithia Springs and Villa Rica will battle at LSHS Friday night in a game that could propel one of the two teams up the standings. On paper, the contest looks like two struggling programs, as the Lions and Wildcats come in with similar records, but it is anything but the case.

VR has been their own worst enemy while playing a tough schedule to start the season and Lithia is getting things turned around under first-year head coach Craig Chatman after winning just one game in the last two seasons.

“I know their record doesn’t show it, but this coach that they’ve got has definitely got them going in the right direction,” said VR coach Chad Frazier. “We’re going to have to play well… All these games are must-win for us to get to the postseason.”

The defense helped the Wildcats win last week, earning the shutout and shutting down the Chapel Hill offense. That will be a much harder task this week as Lithia has the talent and athletes to to put points on the board.

“They’ve got some kids that can take it the distance any time. [Deandre Gullatt], the running back who also plays MIKE backer is really good. He’s athletic and looks to be of pretty good size and strength. Of course, their quarterback [Jadon Walker] is pretty shifty as well and [Kamari Williams] moves all around and plays receiver is pretty athletic, as well,” Frazier said. “Our defense is going to have to do a good job of containing the quarterback, putting pressure on the quarterback, stopping [Gullatt] when they give it to him and then shutting down the passing game.”

The other thing the defense will try to do is get the ball away from Lithia Springs. Last week against Hiram the Lions turned the ball over three times and have struggled with protection on special teams, having several kicks blocked. While the Wildcats can’t rely on turnovers, it is something they might be able to take advantage of Friday night.

The Wildcats will get a boost this Friday when tailback Marquis McPhaul returns from an injury. What came out of the injury was the emergence of Matt Ellison, who now provides a fourth option in the backfield to go with Jaylon Cox and Kaleb Cosper.

“Offensively, we’ll have Marquis back which should add to our run game,” Frazier said. “We’re healthy, we practiced well and offensively we’re going to have to be able to move the ball and put points on the board similar to last week.”

Having a capable rushing attack gives the offense the ability to throw the ball more successfully. Last week the Wildcats were balanced with Cox picking up 132 yards on the ground and Kris Ballinger catching seven passes for 105 yards. Whether it’s one back and receiver or another, Villa Rica’s goal is to have balance.

“Noah [Smith] did a good job of finding Ballinger and putting [the ball] in there on some of those passes,” Frazier said. “It’s going to be important he does that with all our receivers because watching film on them some teams are trying to put an extra guy over the top of Ballinger. I’ve seen [Lithia] do it to other receivers ... We’re going to need our other guys to step up and Noah to spread it around.”

Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. between the Lions and Wildcats.

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