An evenly matched game of high school football is often a thing of beauty. Exciting games and exciting plays happen when two well matched teams come out to play. Add a homecoming into the mix and you’ve got the recipe for some really great football.
With both teams at 1-4, Friday’s SOC I matchup between the Green Bobcats and the Notre Dame Titans should be that kind of hard-hitting, nail-biting, truly exciting kind of game.
“This week is homecoming at Green,” Bobcats’ coach Ted Newsome said. “So, everybody is a little more excited. There is good school spirit this week in the hallway, there’s a little more lift in your step. You want to do well for the people coming back for homecoming, there is going to be several graduated classes coming back to the game, and we are excited about putting on a good show for them, and let them see what Bobcat football in 2017 is all about.”
But homecoming is not the only thing that will make this game better than your average game. The size and number match up between the teams is something that neither program has had the chance to experience yet this season.
“First of all,” said Notre Dame coach Bob Ashley, “I think we match up fairly well with these guys, compared to some of the other teams we have played in the past few weeks. We are pretty confident that we are familiar with what they do in day to day operation because of their numbers matching ours. We both are struggling in that department. So, it should be a fairly even playing field.”
With freshman quarterback Caleb Nichols at the helm for the Titans, and sophomore Trevor Darnell taking the reins for the first time for the Bobcats’, it will be up to these two young men to lead their teams on the field.
Darnell will start the game, for Green, at quarterback after taking over for the injured Wyatt Mollett. Even though this will be Darnell’s first start, Coach Newsome has faith in his ability to take control of the field and steer his team in the right direction.
“He has real leadership qualities in him,” said Newsome of Darnell. “He is a very team first oriented kind of kid, great teammate, real versatile athlete. He has played a lot of different positions, we have moved him around to several spots this year from running back, quarterback. He even played the wing, and been a wide receiver,” continues Newsome. “So, he has been around. He knows what everybody is doing. He knows how all the parts are moving in the offense, and he understands the whole thing. He has a good head on his shoulders, so he will do a good job leading our offense. I have a lot of confidence in him.”
For the Titans, Nichols has shown the development and ability that will make the freshman a force to be reckoned with at the position in years to come.
“I think he is growing every week that he has been out there,” Coach Ashley says of the Titan Nichols. “He has done a really nice job, we are in motion almost every play so he has to know if we are in the right formations and what the snap count will be and he has grown really leaps and bounds on that type of thing, stuff that really does not show up in the stats,” Ashley continued. “He’s just done a tremendous job, last week we threw the ball four times and he was three of four, for 34 yards. So, we are trying to increase things for him week to week. He manages the offense with all the different fades and things we run, he has picked up on that and really done a nice job.”
Offensively, look for Notre Dame to run the football and capitalize on their offensive speed, with Ben Mader, Chase Matiz, and Logan Emnett heading the charge.
“We have a pretty good running back in Ben, who’s a junior,” Ashley said. “He’s seen a lot of action for us the last couple of years and has done a real nice job for us. Chase plays wing back for us and has done a nice job. We have a freshman full back, Logan Emnett, who has really come on the last three or four weeks out of the fullback spot, he’s really done a nice job for us,” Ashley continued. “For whatever reason we are having a hard time hanging onto the football. I don’t know if it’s the competition from Monday to Thursday in practice or what, we can’t really simulate what the guys are going to see in the game because of our numbers. It’s been a learning experience for all of us, Coaches included.”
Defensively, hustle and tackles are the key for Titans.
“Defensively, we’ve got to get more out of our front lineman as far as tackles go,” Ashley said. “As far as that goes, we have got to do a better job all together as a team just being better tacklers, and being in position to make plays. We really need to do all we can to be able to force turnovers, I think you get a lot of turnovers when you hustle, I believe hustle has a lot to do with that. We have to get after it a little better defensively.”
For the Bobcats, the offense will be all about their run game and how the sizeable offensive line can control the line of scrimmage.
“It’s going to be run oriented,” Newsome said. “We are going to run a lineup and hopefully, we feel like we have a little bit of a size advantage on the offensive line. We have decent size back, so we feel like hopefully we can use that advantage to establish the running game.
As for the defense, Newsome wants to see his team playing assignment football, and staying aware of where Mader is at all times.
“Defensively, we want to take away Mader,” Newsome said. “We want to be aware of where he is at all times. He’s the guy that makes them go. He’s a very dangerous offensive player and we need to be able to corral him, because he could really make it a long night for us if we allow him to get loose. Defensively, it’s all about playing assignment football, and containing (Matiz), while being very aware of where Mader is at all times. We need to understand how they like to attack with him from different positions and be very disciplined and play assignment football on every down, trusting your team mate that he will be where he is supposed to be, and that you hold up your end of that trust by being where you are supposed to be and just playing good team defense.”
In the end, it is all about the matchup of two young and growing programs, and how both can improve on every play.
“We’re looking forward,” Ashley said. “We’re trying to get better and trying to compete,” said Ashley. “That is one thing we are trying to stress to our guys is because we are so young. We just have to win the moment and leave the field better than when we took it. If we can we can pick up some wins along the way that’s just a bonus, but we really stress on trying to be better and to just try and keep improving. We just want to compete. It will be nice to pay a team in our division. Not only a team in our division, but one in a similar situation. It will be a nice change of pace for our guys.”
“I am looking forward to competing against a great program like Notre Dame,” Newsome said. “They have a great tradition. For us to get a chance to compete against those guys, with the tradition they have and the way they uphold that tradition with honor and pride, we have a lot of respect for that program for that reason. If we were able to pull off a victory against Notre Dame, that would be a huge accomplishment for our program.”