For the second straight Friday night, the St. Mary’s football team plays at home in Turpin Stadium.
But tonight, the challenge is quite different than the Tigers encountered in their season-opening 43-23 loss to a very talented Class 3A Abbeville team.
The Buckeye Panthers (1-0) are a 2A squad who present a big test for SMHS – emphasis on big.
“They’re not a bad bunch. They beat Block in their opener, and have a bunch of big, physical kids,” said Tigers’ coach Aaron York. “They’re not quite as athletic as Abbeville, but if we don’t do what we’re supposed to, they can give us fits. They’re large up front.”
The secret to St. Mary’s success tonight is not complex, he said.
“If we can play fast, and match the physicality of what we did last week, we’ll be pretty successful this ballgame.”
It’s routinely said that football teams make their greatest progress between games one and two. But it’s also obvious that teams can react poorly to a negative outcome, especially a double-digit loss at home. Considering the Class A Tigers played a much larger foe last Friday night, and did a lot right, York is very pleased with his team’s progress.
“We’ve had a really good practice week. We’ve changed the way we do some things this week to get our legs back underneath us,” he said. “What we’ve stressed is don’t make the same mistakes we made last Friday night. Monday, the first thing we did was broke it down, offense, defense, and what we messed up, we corrected right then and there.
“Next step was, we installed (the game plan) for the week and we’ve been rolling along since.
“The focus of the kids has been really good. Our Tuesday and Wednesday practices are normally our physical days when we get after it. We’ve had two good days of hitting and I believe this has been one of our better full weeks of practice in a long time,” said York. “I don’t know if that’s because our kids got to see a live game and see game speed, and realized we need to match that in practice, or if it’s things we changed in practice, but we’ve had a really good work week.”
The Tigers “step up” in class to face the 2A Panthers tonight, and will continue in the next few weeks.
“Our schedule is tough. The first five games, we’re playing up in classifications. We’ve told the kids this is to prep us for district play and postseason,” said York. “We won’t see any more athleticism than we faced in Abbeville. Everything we’re doing is done for a reason, to get us ready for the games that really matter, district and playoffs.”
Abbeville had SMHS outmanned, as it turned out. The Wildcats expect their best season since 2006. As for the expectations for the Tigers, York has a simple plan.
“If our offense can move the ball, not turn it over, and if we don’t give up the big plays, from here on out, week 2 to week 10, we will be in every game and give ourselves a chance to win.”