By Donald Taylor
Being an overwhelming favorite heading into a big-time rivalry game isn’t something most coaches want their kids to hear. It can be a death blow to a team’s focus leading up to the game. The Raiders are headed into enemy territory in this very position. It’s difficult, though, to think Coach Wiles hasn’t drilled focus into them all week. If I had to guess, the following items have been part of his focus in preseason camp and this week.
Here are, in my opinion, three keys to coming away with the win on Friday night for the visiting Raiders:
• KEEP’EM HONEST: You’ll need to have some semblance of a passing game if you’re going to leave Newberry with the victory. Now, I’m not saying the Raider QB needs to invoke his inner Tom Brady, but he (and the Offensive Coordinator) needs to have some success through the air to slow down Newberry’s front seven.
• FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES: The one place on the field where you don’t match-up with Newberry is along the lines of scrimmage. The offensive line is going to have to communicate and help block when necessary to slow down those outstanding Panther linemen. Setting the edge consistently for stretch runs (outside the tackles) will be a key to establishing the run early in the game.
• PLAY SMART: When the big plays happen in your favor…act like you’ve been done it before and are going to do it again. You’re favored by 3 touchdowns in this game. Don’t commit “dumb” penalties. This could breathe life into the Panthers…and you don’t want to do that. Momentum is a fickle thing.
Renowned prognosticator, Joe Pinkos, has installed the Raiders as 21 point favorites in this game. If they are to run away with this game they’ll need to play a near-perfect brand of football come Friday night. I believe the most important of the three Keys is the passing game. Quick routes, bubble routes to backs and receivers, and maybe a deep ball or two will stretch the Panthers out and slow down a very athletic Panther D.