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File / The Outlook Central Coosa's Donta Daniel (1) will relied upon heavily to be the catalyst for the offense tonight against Winterboro.

Possibly the most important thing for Central Coosa going into tonight’s season opener against Winterboro is keeping a solid mentality. If one or two things go wrong, the Cougars can’t let themselves fall apart.

Coosa coach Brett Thomas will look to experienced players Donta Daniel and Levi Krause to hold those team spirits up.

“They are walking lessons to be learned because they persevered,” Thomas said. “This is their fourth year playing and they haven’t had a successful season their entire high school career. If you listen to them on the field, though, you’d never know it. That’s a winning mentality. A player can have a winning mentality and never have won a game. It’s how you approach it and that’s one thing I’m trying to teach them.”

Winterboro had a dominating victory over the Cougars last year, but Coosa is looking to turn the tide this season. The Bulldogs return a lot of athletic players and should be a run-heavy team. Krause, Paul Robinson and J.R. Chapman will try to set the tone up front for Coosa on the defensive line.

Running a 4-3 defense, the Bulldogs will try to use their speed to their advantage against a Cougar offense that could struggle to move the ball.

“They’re a quick team,” Thomas said. “They’re fast and they have a lot of athletes. They have a lot of basketball players so they’re a little quicker and a little more mobile than your traditional football players. My concern is being able to get the ball in space and being able to advance. If we can do that, I think we have a great chance.”

Daniel will be the catalyst for the Cougar offense. He returns with a lot of experience and even more yards under his belt and if he can find room, Daniel could be a game changer for Central Coosa.

“He’s the only experienced back we have,” Thomas said. “Seketrius (Milliner) played more on the line last year but he’ll play full back this year. We lost Jashaslin (James), so Donta is the only really experienced heavy load ball carrier we have. We’re going to have to depend on him.”

Thomas continues to have confidence going into the first game and knows how important a victory — or even just staying competitive — would be for his team’s morale. But he said it’s going to come down to the offensive line holding their ground to create room for Daniel and the Cougars remembering their assignments and executing on defense.

“The greatest thing for us this week is we actually had enough varsity players that we could actually scrimmage,” Thomas said. “That says volumes because last year we didn’t even have enough players to scrimmage against one another. We looked really decent in the scrimmage; I was pleased.”

But putting it against another team could be a whole different story.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.