Pickering got off to a fast start to begin the year, but the Red Devils hit a road bump last week in a loss to Merryville.

Pickering (2-1) will try to get back on track Friday night against Class 4A Grant on the road.

"They play hard and remind me a lot of Merryville," Russo said. "That all comes straight from Coach (Freddie) Hallman. I have a lot of respect for him and what he has done. He is notorious for getting the most out of players, especially with low numbers. He's battled that his whole career. Wherever he has been, he been successful."

Pickering's loss to Merryville last week was its first of the season, but Russo says his guys have bounced back.

"The players responded well," he said. "We've had a good week of practice and had a really great day on Wednesday.

"It's all about the attitude you take into it. We told the players that all week. So far, they've had a great attitude. When the bullets start flying for real on Friday, we'll see how they do. They've been through adversity all along and overcame it. We didn't pick up the win last week, but still overcame a lot to have a chance to win."

As an assistant coach at Leesville last year, Russo got a chance to coach against Grant. The Wampus Cats won 42-8, but Russo says it wasn't as easy as it looked.

"They gave us fits," he said. "The score ended up being more lopsided than it looked starting out. They gave us some trouble, but we overcame it because we had a lot of talent. Those depth issues they had last year, we have at Pickering this year."

Grant and Pickering share a lot of similarities. Grant broke a 20-game losing streak last week, and Pickering picked up a win at the end of season last year to snap a long losing skid.

"The first thing (in common) is low numbers," Russo said. "It's an art form trying to practice with low numbers. I don't think people really understand that. It's not the starting 11 always out there because you have guys get cramped up. Practicing is tough.

"They are coming off a win to break a losing streak, so they will be feeling good."

Not only would a win help the confidence of the Red Devils, but it could have an effect when the playoff brackets are released.

"People always talk about districts, but the way the playoffs are seeded now, every game is worth the same," Russo said. "We're getting the play up points this week. It's a huge game for us. It could go a long ways for where we end up at the end of season. We are taking this serious and want this one bad."