Last season the Tigers won at ACS, 30-7, and have 14 starters returning from that team, which bodes well for a season opening win.
“They’re a pretty good football team, they had a lot of juniors last year and they turned into seniors,” ACS coach Rick Bolotte said. “We didn’t give them too good of a game last year so we’re confident we can play with them, but I don’t know if we have the depth to hang with them.”
HMS coach Richard Sandusky got a chance to see ACS on tape and said they are a better team than the one the Tigers faced in 2010.
“Looking at them on film they are a much improved team from last year,” Sandusky said. “I know that they lost some big offensive and defensive lineman and a couple of their running backs from last year. Their quarterback is returning and it seems like they’ve improved quite a bit on the offensive line. Even though they lost some bigger kids. They’re aggressive and they play hard.”
HMS played Franklin in its scrimmage and lost in its jamboree to Opelousas Catholic, 12-8.
There was progress made in the week between those games, but there is still plenty of work to be done.
“I’m pleased with the progress that we made from the scrimmage to the jamboree,” Sandusky said. “I still feel like, coming out of the jamboree, that we still have some work to do and I think we got better this week in preparation. But, I probably feel like a lot of coaches, you’re not in midseason form yet and still ironing some things out. Friday night will tell us a lot about our conditioning and things like that. You’re not able to get a judge of that in a jamboree or scrimmage.”
The excitement of the first game in front of a big crowd makes the jamboree a poor litmus test for a team’s chances in a season and that was the case with the Tigers who got tired late in the game.
“I felt like in the jamboree that we got winded a little bit earlier than I thought we should have,” Sandusky said. “And I think that was due to being excited and things like that with adrenaline flowing. We addressed some things this week and hopefully that will work out in our favor.”
One player the Tigers will need to keep track of is quarterback Collin Rowland. He was the starter last season and can find his targets down field if given time. Drake Rodriguez will be under center for HMS and had success in a back up role last season, so the quarterback battle will go a long way in determining the result.
“Ascension is a spread football team,” Sandusky said. “They go to three and four wide receivers, they like to run out of the spread and the quarterback’s got a big arm. He can throw the ball pretty well — when he has time. He’s a good pocket passer. He’s also got a little bit of speed to get around the edge and he’s a big kid and will put his shoulder down. All around he’s a pretty good quarterback. We just can’t let him sit back there and have time — we’re going to have to put some pressure on him.”
Rowland has two starters on his offensive line and a pair of wideouts that could be critical against an experienced and battle tested HMS defense.
“My quarterback is returning, both guards are returning, my center is returning and two receivers are returning,” Bolotte said.
When asked what the key to the game would be for the Bulldogs, he had a simple answer.
“Ball control,” he said. “If we can control the ball we can win — we have to keep the ball away from them.”
The Tigers are well aware of the potent passing game that will be visiting campus tonight and they hope to put pressure on Rowland and lock down the receivers in man-coverage to keep the Bulldogs contained.
“I think getting some pressure on him and also the defensive backs have to do a good job of coverage,” Sandusky said. “Anytime you’re putting pressure on him, that probably means you’re in a one-on-one situation with the defensive backs. They’ve got to do a real good job of defending their man. We feel like if we sit back in a zone he’s going to have a lot of time if we’re just rushing three or four guys.”