A key region match up

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Straughn’s Daryl George (20) rushes for a gain last Friday night against T.R. Miller. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

The gridiron awaits for Opp and Straughn.

The Tigers and Bobcats will scrape and claw in a key region contest this Friday night at Channel-Lee Stadium, and both teams are playing for bragging rights and a spot in the post season.

For OHS, a win over Straughn would give it an automatic berth to the Class 3A state playoffs. For SHS, the Tigers need to beat the Bobcats and would need to count on T.R. Miller defeating W.S. Neal to secure a spot in the playoffs.

Both local teams are in a four-way tie at 4-2 in Class 3A, Region 1 with Bayside Academy and W.S. Neal. Opp beat W.S. Neal 14-0 last week. SHS beat the Eagles 36-30 in week two.

However, Bayside Academy and T.R. Miller have defeated SHS and OHS in region action. The Tigers lost to second-ranked T.R. Miller 19-17 last week. Opp fell to TRM 21-7 in week two. Against the Admirals, Opp fell 35-14, while Straughn lost 27-17. W.S. Neal beat Bayside Academy 44-42 in week seven.

Opp’s Ty White goes back for a hand off during an earlier game this season. | File photo

“On paper, we’re pretty evenly matched,” OHS head football coach Jack Whigham said. “We’re 5-3. They’re 5-3. We’ve lost to the same two region opponents and won against the same region opponents.

“I don’t know if you’ve figured up the score differences,” he said. “I don’t know what that would be. (Straughn is) a very, very well-coached team. They’re a very good team that plays extremely hard.”

SHS displayed just how hard it plays during its loss to TRM last week.

Down 13-0, the Tigers came back to take a 17-13 lead late in the fourth quarter, thanks to long offensive drives down the field where they ate up clock in critical series.

It was an “unbelievable” effort by the team, SHS head football coach Trent Taylor said after last week’s game.

“The thing is, is that we control our own destiny,” Taylor said about the playoffs scenario. “We need to play well and give ourselves an opportunity to win. If not (and lose), then we would have to depend on somebody else.”

Straughn senior quarterback Chase Short did all of the scoring for the Tigers last week, even kicking a 22-yard field goal.

Whigham said his defense needs to be able to stop Short. The Straughn QB is a good pocket and game manager, in addition to being an elusive runner.

“The other kids (Straughn running backs Devin Scott, Daryl George and Nigel Byrd) are good players also and they can beat us, but their offense revolves around what (Short) does,” he said. “That’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us.

“Last week, we had a challenge in that Neal was so much bigger than us and they were just pounding folks,” he said. “We had to come up with a way to stop their offense, and I thought our defense did a great job in their game plan for Neal. I’m sure they’re going to come up with a game plan for Straughn.”

In fact, Taylor said he was impressed at how Opp stopped the Eagles’ powerful offense.

“You’ve got to give their kids a lot of credit,” the Straughn coach said. “Their kids did the necessary things to win the game.”

When asked if there was one player or side of the ball on Opp that can pose a big threat to Straughn, Taylor said it would have to be the Bobcat defense.

“They’ve got good size at the linebacker position,” he said. “The kids up front are a lot like ours — undersized — but play really hard. They’ve got outstanding linebacker play and secondary play.

“(OHS defensive coordinator) Michael (Cassady) does a great job scouting other teams, knowing ahead of time what they’re going to run on offense,” he said. “He kind of knows what the next play will be called. We’ll have to be exeptionally sharp on offense.”

The Tigers are averaging a little more than 250 yards on offense per game through week seven, where as Opp is peaking out at more than 230 yards per game.

Whigham said OHS tries to shoot for a “balanced” offense each week.

“Obviously, we’re going to run the ball probably 75 percent or more of the time,” he said. “When we do throw the ball, we’ve got to be effective in it. To me, for us to be effective for our offense, we’ve got to throw for close to 100 yards per game. If we do that, then it gives us a pretty good balance in our offense.”

The focus this week at practice has been different for both teams, the coaches said.

Straughn is making it a challenge to forget what took place last week in its loss to TRM, and focus solely on Opp, Taylor said.

“That was a very physical football game Friday night and a very emotional football game,” Taylor said. “I have found that teenagers sometimes seem to be more tolerable and are more residual as we are as adults. After being at practice on Monday, they were disappointed.

“But they’ve got to learn that we’ve got to go on,” he said. “I hope that’s what they’ll do.”

Whigham said his team’s focus this week is on making sure the Bobcats play a good game against Straughn.

“That’s one thing they can control is this game,” Whigham said. “That’s all we need to concern ourselves about is playing a quality football team who has become a real big rival. It’s getting close to playoff time and good teams step up at this time, and hopefully we can do our part.”

Kick off in Opp is at 7 on Friday night.