Cavaliers hope to silence R-S Central
As much as the R-S Central Hilltoppers are surging into tonight's county matchup against East Rutherford, the Cavaliers are reeling.
Losers of three of its last four, East Rutherford and head coach Clint Bland knows they have a tough test tonight on the road against a team they've beaten the last two seasons.
"R-S struggled early in the season but they've really turned it on in the past few weeks and they look really good," Bland said. "We have three videos on them and on every one you see improvement and I told our boys that we're going in reverse when we need to be getting better. R-S scares me a little bit."
The rushing attack of R-S Central is the focal point of East Rutherord's preparation, and rightfully so.
"Matt Atchley at fullback can run, the wingbacks can really run and even the quarterback looks good," Bland said. "They run a little more option than we expected."
And just because the Hilltoppers run doesn't mean they're simple to prepare for. R-S Central head coach Mike Cheek has several looks and formations for his offense.
"It makes practice go a lot slower when you have to line up and show all these different formations," Bland said. W"e're doing all we can with the game plan and hopefully we have one that can shut them down because we can't get in a shootout with them."
The East Rutherford offense, after starting the season averaging 32 points per game, is averaging just 7.5 points over its last four games.
"Early in the season I thought we could score but right now we can't," Bland said. "We need to keep Friday night as a 21-14, 13-10 type game or something else close to keep them from scoring 40 points because we can't score 40 right now."
The key to the night might be the ability of East Rutherford to reestablish its rushing attack after recording just 11 yards on 35 carries last week in a 35-14 loss to Crest.
"Even though we're a spread team, I love running the football," Bland said. "We have to get the run game going because we can't ask Austin [Hollifield] to sit back there and throw the ball 30 times a game. Too many bad things can happen when you throw that much.
"We need to keep our offense out there and the ball away from them."
Hollifield, the East Rutherford quarterback, had his best game of the season in last week's losing effort with 224 yards passing and two touchdowns, including a 67-yard bomb to Kaleb McEntyre late in the first half. Bland hopes another big play such as that can set the pace for his team early.
"In a county game you need something good to happen to you early to put pressure on them. We don't want to play from behind," Bland said.
However, passing the ball on this Hilltopper secondary is no easy task as R-S Central has 10 interceptions during its three-game winning streak.
"Early in the season people said you could throw all over them, but now it seems like on every pass they're getting their hand on the ball or coming down with a pick," Bland said.
But you can't ignore the county rival factor in a game like this.
"I told them that it doesn't matter who we're playing. You need to treat them like you would a Tuscola or North Gaston and you can't just get pumped up for these county games, you need to get pumped up for every game," Bland said. "But they're kids and all their buddies are at Central and Chase so there's going to be an extra spark there."
The two teams take the gridiron tonight with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. at R-S Central High School.