By Donald Taylor
The outcomes of high school football games, at any level, are often decided well before the first whistle blows. Whether it’s properly (or improperly) figuring out your opponents’ tendencies, identifying their weapons or simply being in better conditioning shape, there are ways to help improve the odds that your team is ahead at the end of the game.
Here are my three keys to the Newberry Panthers coming away with an upset of Santa Fe on Friday night
• K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sarduy): With a stable of running backs and one of the better offensive lines in the area, RUN THE BALL. This is not to say that a passing game isn’t needed, but mix it in appropriately to keep the Raiders honest, if not off balanced. Jason Franklin (1000+yd rushing in 2014) and Jacquez Jernigan are play-making backs that can take it the distance on any given play. Couple that with the power running of Chris Washington and you’ve got a recipe for success on the ground.
• TRENCH WARFARE: The “Big Uglies” need to win each play. That is, control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. On paper, it appears that the Panthers have a sizable advantage at the point of attack. The Panther linemen need to play up to their ability on each play. Taking plays off will lead to drive killing, and game losing, plays.
• SPECIAL “K”: It’s the oldest cliché in football. Well, maybe “Defense wins Championships” is the oldest, but THE KICKING GAME comes in a close second. If Newberry is to spring the upset this Friday night, they’re going to have to convert extra points and perform well in the rest of the kicking game. Kick coverage is one of the most maddening challenges a coaching staff faces. I have always said this is when the team kicking finds itself most vulnerable during the game. Sound coverage, goods kicks and maybe a solid return (or two) will play a huge part in determining the outcome of the game.
I know, I know…this all seems obvious to the average fan in the stands. But as a former coach, I can promise you these three things are not easily obtained when the lights are on. There’s also no guarantee the successful execution equals a win. However, IF the Panthers can consistently excel in these areas on Friday night, they might just pull off one of the larger upsets in week #1.