November 21, 2013

Blanchard has tougher task in Racers reunion

Adam Troxtell
The Express-Star


Last week's overwhelming victory over Perkins was a sign that Blanchard is in the postseason for the long haul, taking nothing for granted in their quest for a repeat.

But too much confidence, especially that after a 76-13 demolition, can go to players' heads, and that's one thing head coach Jeff Craig and his team are trying to avoid ahead of their second round game against Newcastle tonight.

"We preached a lot last year about staying hungry and focussed and not staying hung up on one game," Craig said. "It's different now than it was in the regular season. There's a renewed urgency in these games."

Aside from acting as a local rival, the Newcastle matchup presents another twist since these two teams have already met. The Lions came out on top in that Sept. 20 game 28-7, which is considered a close game compared to the other results this season. Penalties and uncharacteristic turnovers made life more difficult than necessary for Blanchard that night.

"We have to eliminate turnovers and penalties," Craig said. "If we can fix those things, we'll be in pretty good shape."

The Racers forced four turnovers and held Sulphur to just 231 yards of offense last week, so Newcastle enters this game on the back of some defensive milestones. Junior running back Zach Bergt and quarterback Casey Freeman were influential in Newcastle's 28-6 win, and a more potent offense is one thing Craig says he'll team will need to be wary of.

"This being their first year in a new offensive system, it's a lot like us," Craig said. "They've had to get comfortable with their offense just like we have. We've got to be on our toes on defense."

In other words, Blanchard may not be able to make up for turnovers as easily this time around. The Lions have also had a full season for quarterback Blake Owen to adjust, and their 69 point win last week shows they're at least ready to initiate a new attacking gear.

"I think we're better offensively," Craig said. "Our quarterbacks have more experience. They're better at recognizing things now."

There is still a good chance this game will be closer than the one back in September, since, as Craig says, Newcastle come to Blanchard this time with a slight advantage.

"I always think the advantage goes to the team that lost," Craig said. "They'll be the ones to change or tweak a few things to improve. The team that won is wondering do we change things or keep them the same."