Gryphons prepared for Viking invasion
Fans expecting to see the Thomas Jefferson Gryphons (2-0) and the Avery Vikings (1-1) light up the scoreboard tonight, might be disappointed.
“Avery’s a very good defensive team,” said Thomas Jefferson head coach Jerry Cash. “They put more people in the box than you can block in the run game. We are going to have to throw the ball a lot.”
Stats seem to back Cash’s assessment. The Vikings have only surrendered 19 points all season, defeating a McDowell team last week that edged R-S Central in Week 1.
Historically, matchups between TJCA and Avery have been a defensive struggle. In 2012, TJCA held Avery without an offensive touchdown to spoil the Vikings’ homecoming 13-7.
Efrim Borders garnered 73 yards receiving in that contest and Cash says the senior, along with the other receivers, will need to have big games.
“Because they load the box, we are going to have to get the ball out quickly,” he said. “They will probably have single coverage on Efrim and Tyler [Mitchell] and that works in our favor. I don’t think there is a secondary on our schedule that can keep up with them.”
Another key for TJCA is taking advantage of turnovers. The Gryphons created five last week against Rosman but converted them into only six points.
“We have to do a better job of that,” said Cash. “Avery is so good defensively that we have to take advantage of every chance we get if we want to win.”
When the Vikings are on offense, Cash says to expect the unexpected.
“They will line up in shotgun and spread you out on one play and then get in the I-formation and pound you the next,” he said. “That’s very difficult to prepare for in just a few days. They also like to run some trick plays with their special teams. We are going to have our hands full.”
Stopping the Avery attack hinges on slowing down junior quarterback Trè Jackson.
“He is very mobile,” said Cash. “We saw last year that he can hurt you with his arm or his legs. The big key is to put pressure on him, but not from up the middle. It has to come from the edges. If we pressure up the middle, he can get outside and cause all kinds of problems. We need to come from the edges and force everything inside.”
Applying that pressure will be a pair of new faces. as linemen Tyler Sabolovic and Michael Minder are nursing injuries. Jacob Evans and Jeremy Partlowe are expected to replace them on the line.
“These players are really going to have to step up and protect in the passing game because we can’t afford to get in a pound it out game with Avery,” said Cash. “Depth will also be an issue because now, four of the five lineman will have to go both ways.”
With all the focus on defense, Cash admits that the contest could very well be decided on a field goal.
“I think it’s going to come down to whoever wins special teams and the kicking game,” he said. “Mason Fenner is an excellent kicker, but he is also at a big disadvantage because he kicks on a practice field without goalposts. He also plays offense and defense so he does not have as much time to devote to kicking as someone else might.”
The Gryphons will have the advantage of a home crowd, however, as tonight marks their 2013 home opener.
“It will be nice to have the extra man out there, especially after playing for the last month, including scrimmages, on the road,” said Cash. “Hopefully they will get behind us, get excited, and help us get a win.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.